The first experimental roaded catchment dam in Western Australia has been added to the Register of Heritage Places, acknowledging the structure’s scientific value.

AA Dam No190 James, Lake Grace was originally constructed in 1914 and, following improvements in 1949, became the first experimental roaded catchment dam in the State. It is a square dam with a concrete inlet chute and was originally part of a State Government program to provide an adequate water supply to regions of the Wheatbelt during the early twentieth-century that were not part of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.

In 1949 the dam was expanded and improved using new technologies and materials to develop a more efficient method of water collection and storage for agricultural areas. One of the innovations was a 'roaded catchment' which is a sloped area with a corrugated surface that collects rainwater and channels water into a dam. This technology was considered one of the greatest single advances in water conservation for the State.

Other works on the dam in 1949 increased its capacity from 1.4 million litres to 9.1 million litres. As the population in the Lake Grace district continued to grow over the years, so did the need for more water and by 1975 the town became connected to the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme providing a more reliable water supply for all residents.

"James Dam was an incredible achievement in establishing a new and effective way of collecting rain water in an area that had very poor rainfall and assisted farmers in the Wheatbelt greatly,” commented Heritage Minister David Templeman. "The design also proved that roaded catchments were considerably efficient in capturing and directing rainwater. This simple design was very cost effective at the time and allowed farmers in the area to design smaller scale versions for their own farm dams.”

While not currently operational, inclusion in the State Register will ensure the protection of James Dam's heritage values for future generations and “recognises the technological innovations of Water Corporation and its predecessors in helping facilitate the development of the eastern Wheatbelt" added Water Minister Dave Kelly.

Images courtesy of Water Corporation of WA