Milky water in the Yarrowee River was due to water main burst

Neil Huybregts with the canister of milky water he collected after the Yarrowee River mysteriously filled up at the weekend. Picture: Kate Healy
Neil Huybregts with the canister of milky water he collected after the Yarrowee River mysteriously filled up at the weekend. Picture: Kate Healy

MILKY-coloured water that flowed through the Yarrowee River in Ballarat East at the weekend was due to a broken water main in King Street.

The water was discovered by resident Neil Huybregts who was concerned that detergents had been poured into the river catchment on, what had for more than a month, been a dry river bed.

Mt Huybregts, who is a member of the Friends of Yarrowee River group, said he had walked along the river on Friday and it had been dry and when he next saw it on Saturday, it was full of the water.

“The water was knee-deep from the King Street drain to Nicholson Street, where a steady stream was flowing onto the concrete open drain section,” Mr Huybregts said.

“I’d thought it must have rained overnight, but then I noticed the colour and it looked as though there had been some sort of spill.”

Mr Huybregts took a sample of water and offered it to Central Highlands Water (CHW).

However the authority was quick to say it had come from a broken main in King St earlier that morning and the milky look was due to run off it had picked up from the street when the water had flowed.

CHW general manager of customer and community Jacqueline O’Neill said ongoing dry conditions could put pressure on water mains.

“Hot and dry weather conditions can cause movement in the earth which can sometimes disturb water mains,” she said. “We manage 2497 kilometres of water mains which covers 9275 square km and occasionally a main can burst as has happened here.”

Ms O’Neill said the main burst early on Saturday morning with crews onsite within 20 minutes to assist customers and fix the issue.

Water main bursts are common when there is a prolonged dry spell

Water main bursts are common when there is a prolonged dry spell

The Friends of the Yarrowee River is a community group that aims to work actively to restore and protect the Yarrowee River, its environment and tributaries.

Mr Huybregts said his concerns were raised, as when a rain event happens, the water usually turned a coffee brown, not white.

“CHW was very confident it wasn’t sewerage which would have been very bad news and it wasn’t a chemical as they said it would most likely foam at the surface,” he said.

He said while he accepted drying up river beds was part of Australian life, he had concerns about erosion and particularly litter.

“There was a big clean up at the Redan wetlands recently and we picked 200kg within two hours,” he said. 

“It was done downstream from the CBD and you can see that any litter dropped in the street will eventually find its way down the river.”

If you see any faults or to report emergencies, phone CHW on 1800 061 514.