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Sydney’s iconic water canal upgraded

The 125-year-old water canal responsible for supplying up to 40% of Sydney's daily water needs has received a major upgrade.

Nine motorised control gates have been installed at the heritage-listed Upper Canal in order to improve safety, increase canal efficiencies and enhance management tools.

Engineering and Service Provider Zinfra was behind the works, which included the design, fabrication, installation, testing and commissioning of the gates.

“Resourcing and timing were critical to the successful delivery of the project,” said Project Manager Vijay Premkumar.

“Careful management, scheduling and coordination of our resources was required due to the nature and location of the nine different sites.”

One of the biggest project challenges Zinfra faced was poor access to dispersed and remote sites, making it difficult to mobilise equipment, excavators and cranes.

Accessing the canal also required extensive landowner and stakeholder management.

“It was a challenging project; access was often difficult, and this in turn created technically difficult situations that required a lot of thinking and problem solving,” said Premkumar.

“But we managed the logistics and resources well, so – despite the challenges – it really was an enjoyable project to deliver for our client, WaterNSW.”

A number of water control structures along the length of the Upper Canal were included in the installation project, with AWMA engaged by Zinfra to help design, manufacture and install them.

AWMA said: “The customised water control structures include: scour valves to drain the section upstream of the gate for maintenance work; trash racks to capture debris; safety features [like] fall arrest system handrailing; access platforms to facilitate inspection, operation and maintenance of the gates; and control systems including associated equipment.”

The Upper Canal was first commissioned in the late 19th century when the Botany Swamps became insufficient for Sydney’s growing water demand.

The 64km canal is still the only way of transferring water to Sydney from the four Upper Nepean dams, which supply on average 20% of Sydney’s water, but can at times provide up to 40% of Sydney’s daily demand.