Carrick water rac
Carrick Race. Supplied by Roger Bennett

Central Otago is known for its hot dry summers and provided water is available many plants and trees grow very well, especially fruit trees.  (More on orchards in a later article)

There are many creeks flowing down the mountains in the vicinity of the Clutha valley. Most have small catchments and during the summer months many dry up and, on some occasions, go underground. These can still be accessed but a well needs to be dug down to the water, then it is lifted it to the surface either by pump or bucket.   

Most of the larger creeks have had some of the water diverted for various uses.

 Firewood Creek opposite Cromwell had a portion of its water diverted into reservoir to supply the town of Cromwell. This is not in use now however the remains of the reservoir can be seen on a plateau above where the two arms of the lake meet.

The Roaring Meg Creek was used to generate hydroelectric power. Its source is high on the southern end of the Pisa range and flowed south down a steep sided gully into the Kawarau River. Two dams were constructed in 1934, the first 3.6 km up the valley, and the water piped down to the first power station and another dam, then to a second power station built on the bank of the Kawarau River.  These was built specifically to supply power to the Austral NZ dredge which was constructed to dredge for gold in the river between Cromwell to above Lowburn.  The power stations are still in use today supplying power to the National Grid.

Sometimes water was brought great distances to where it was needed. An example is Bannockburn where the creeks in the vicinity did not have the supply of water needed to meet the demand of the goldfield.  New water sources were investigated, and a good supply was found in Coal Creek, a contributary of the Nevis River. A company was formed, and work was started to dig a 35Km long water race in 1872 which has become known as the Carrick Race. After many issues, hold ups etc it was commissioned in 1878. Initially it supplied water to the gold mining areas around the wider Bannockburn area and is in use today supplying water to farms and vineyards.