The Contour Channel is often used by walkers but it is disused and unsafe in places. We have listed it because it can be accessed in some places and is so interesting.

Roleystone has an interesting history regarding  our water supply of which the Canning Contour Channel features. Parts of the Contour Channel can be seen in Roleystone and parts have been sold to neighbours of the Channel. It start at the Canning Dam and ends near Martin. The Channel was commenced in 1935 because it was seem to be a cheaper way of transporting water. Previously it was piped from the Canning Dam. It was decommissioned in 1975 when the Canning Tunnel was completed. mapRed line marks the Canning Contour Channel m 2 m 1 m 3Pipe down the hill from Contour Road m 4Pipe snakes up the hill towards Kelmscott through the Banyowla Regional Park

The extract below is from the Heritage Council's website. Click here to view more details.

Statement of Significance

The contour channels and associated structures have aesthetic value as the remains of a significant engineering construction that although man-made, sits harmoniously within the natural environment.

The place is an important example of the original water transportation system and demonstrates the hard work required of the labour force during that time.

The place is of significant value because of the potential of the site to contribute to the understanding of the water transportation method.

The place is a rare example of a structure that was designed and constructed between 1935 & 1937 for the transportation of water.

The continued use of parts of the channel as a walking path by local residents reflects its ability to interest people beyond its original function.


The contour channel comprises a series of open concrete channels connected with cast iron pipe siphons over the gullies. The channel follows the contours of the Darling Scarp between Canning Dam and Martin, and is approximately 1.5 metres wide at the base with raking sides at 45o banking up to the natural ground level. At ground level the channel is approximately 5 metres wide, with an overall depth of approximately 2 metres. Together with the channels, there are two stone chimneys and a number of associated works including stilling ponds, a flow measurement building and flume.


The Canning Contour Channel was originally a (16 kilometre long) series of water channels connected by piped sections over gullies, the only contour channel built in Western Australia for the transport of potable water. Built between 1935-37 for the Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board, the Canning Contour Channel had a number of associated works such as the ''stilling'' chambers and the Gosnells Screens (both 1937).
The idea of an open contour water channel had first been recommended in a 1920 report, as a more economical means of conveying potable water, compared to a pipeline. In 1935, E. W. Tindale, the Director of Works for the Canning Dam construction supported this conclusion. He had seen this type of delivery system work successfully in Victoria and believed it could also work well in Western Australia. The projected cost of the Contour Channel and associated pipeline was £155,000. (The actual cost of the work was £125,000.)

The Canning Contour Channel construction commenced in June 1935, under the supervision of Public Works engineers, E.H. Oldham and J.W. Allen. Until its completion in 1937, all water from the Canning Reservoir to Perth was conveyed through a 762mm pipeline from the dam to Kelmscott, and a 914mm pipeline from there to the storage reservoir at Mt Eliza in King''s Park. The pipeline to Gosnells was only a temporary measure, however. Once the rising dam wall increased the storage capacity of the partly completed reservoir and the volume of water available, the water was conveyed through the Canning Contour Channel to Gosnells, and by pipeline the rest of the way.

The new contour channel followed the Canning River Valley for a distance of 16kms, to a point in the foothills above Gosnells. From there, a 1.37m pipe took the water to Cannington, where it connected with mains to Fremantle and Mt Eliza. The contour channel walls were constructed of concrete, with a base of local gravel, and were cut into the sides of the hilly terrain. In addition, a number of piped siphons were used to pass the channel water from one side of the valley to the other or to cross under existing roads. As the channel passed through thick bush and, at times, traversed extremely steep-sided valleys and gullies, access was difficult.

Due to the difficult terrain, little mechanization was used in the building of the contour channel. However, light rail tracks were laid in the completed parts of the channel, to take equipment and pipes to the workface. In addition, horses and carts were used to take equipment into the areas that were not too steep. Most of the construction work was, however, carried out by workmen using the basic implements of picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, and simple pulleys, with block and tackle, were used to position the cast iron siphon pipes.

The workers employed on the construction of the channel lived in camps at various places along the channel. The camps utilized tents, with few permanent built structures, except for some stone chimneys, used to dry the workers'' clothing, when required. The ''sustenance'' workers involved in the project were drawn from the large body of unemployed men during this period of economic depression. However, many of the foremen and lead gangers were permanent Water Supply staff. In January 1937, 320 men were laid off when the channel and the pipe main were completed. Water from the Canning Dam was released into twin (parallel) ''stilling chambers'', 200m from the dam, then passed through a flow recorder, and afterwards ran over boarded weirs into the concrete-lined open contour channel to the Gosnells screens. At this point, the water was filtered of any polluting matter, then piped to Perth. From 1954, the water was also chlorinated at the Gosnells site.

The Canning Contour Channel was an integral part of the Perth water supply from the time of its completion until 1975. During the period of its operation, the maintenance of the contour channel was a daily task, for up to three gangs of workmen. Each day during the summer months, an inspector walked the full 16km length to report on its condition. If possible, problems would be dealt with on the spot. Otherwise, the location of the problem would be noted, and a team would then go in to fix any obstructions, or cracks in the concrete walls. Further maintenance work included the removal of algae, clearing vegetation from the banks on either side of the channel, and checking the stability of the land on the high side of the channel to prevent rock falls creating obstructions.

From its commencement of operation, the Canning Contour Channel required constant upkeep to maintain its efficiency. For example, up to 20% of the water flowing along the channel was lost in leakage, with frequent small breaks and cracks requiring regular attention. In addition, when it rained heavily in the catchment area, dirt, bark, leaves and other matter, would pollute the water. In this case, the Gosnells Screens at the terminus of the Canning Contour Channel played an important role in cleaning the water before it entered the main pipeline to Perth.

This filtering system consisted of a battery of six fine wire screens, which removed debris, including the remains of wildlife that became trapped in the swiftly flowing water of the channel. Prior to the installation of the chlorinating plant in 1954, samples of water were taken from the screening chamber weekly, and examined in the bacteriological laboratories of the Health Department.
In 1950, a major disruption to Perth''s water supplies occurred, when a section of the contour channel near Araluen collapsed, and water restrictions had to be imposed on the city. Supplies were restored, by the extension of one of the existing siphons, to bypass the collapsed section of the channel.

The Canning Dam was the main source for Perth''s water supply until the completion of Serpentine Dam in 1961. However, despite the vulnerability of Canning Contour Channel to malfunction, it was not until the 1973 that an alternative to this method of transporting water was introduced. At this time, the construction of a tunnel from the Canning Dam to Roleystone was commenced. In 1975, the Canning Contour Channel was decommissioned. On 17 January of that year, the newly completed Canning Tunnel was officially opened, by the Minister for Works and Housing. However, as a precaution, the Canning Contour Channel continued to be maintained in operational order, and opened to a flow of water in the summer for two years after 1975. In 2005, the Canning Contour Channel is no longer used for the transport of water, with the route now used mainly as a walking trail.

There are also two stone chimneys along the route of Canning Contour Channel, the remnants of the campsites of workers on the project. The first chimney is situated 80 metres down a track from McNess Drive and 150m from the Canning Contour Channel. The track is one kilometre north of the junction between McNess Drive and the road to the north wall of the Canning Dam. The second chimney is visible from McNess Drive on the right hand side of the road whilst travelling north. The chimney is approximately 2.5kms from the junction of McNess Drive and the Canning Dam north wall road, located in a designated picnic site. There is also a third chimney located on Peet Road, 750m north of the junction of Peet Road and Brookton Hwy. It is on the left hand side of the road going north up the hill. It is clearly visible from the road as it is only about five metres from the road edge. It is opposite the junction of Mackie and Peet Roads, Roleystone. This third chimney is not included within the HCWA registered place.

 SOURCE: State Heritage Office.