In the early 1900s the State Government began acquiring
and subdividing land to encourage the closer
settlement of inland and southern NSW.
In the Murrumbidgee region small blocks of land,
complete with irrigation infrastructure, were offered
to landholders. Water conservation and irrigation
schemes were operating in this region as early as
1912, but irrigation was still more than two decades
away for the southern Riverina.
Hume Dam was one of the first promised water
conservation works in the Murray River Agreement
and work began in 1919. At this time a new wave of
settlers – ex-servicemen returning from the World
War I – began taking up land in the south. But
without regular water supplies the struggle was too
much for some. Another serious drought in the 1920s
led many to simply walk off their land.
By 1926 landholders in the Barham~Wakool region
had developed a detailed proposal for irrigation in
their area. In 1928, following intense lobbying, the
Government announced that a development based on
this landholder proposal would go ahead, when funds
The scheme required a weir 15 miles west of
Deniliquin to hold up the level of the Edward River.
This would allow water to be channelled through the
Colligen Creek and from there into the proposed
Major public works projects
such as the weir and
irrigation network offered
some relief to the record
unemployment of the
Depression during the early
The weir is named after
NSW Premier Bertram
Stevens who turned the
first sod for construction
in 1933. The Wakool
system and weir were
completed in 1938.
First water delivered
The first water was supplied to farmers through the new channel system in the
Wakool Irrigation District in September 1935. The Wakool scheme was the first to
make any significant use of the NSW share of water from the Murray River system.