Tank Stream

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Tank Stream brick lining.jpg
Brick-lined section of the Tank Stream, pictured in November 2008
Country Australia
State New South Wales
Municipality Sydney
Part of Port Jackson
Source Hyde Park
 - location Sydney CBD
 - coordinates 33°52′13.2″S 151°12′27.9″E / 33.870333°S 151.207750°E / -33.870333; 151.207750
Mouth Sydney Cove
 - location Circular Quay
 - coordinates 33°51′50.0472″S 151°12′31.1688″E / 33.863902000°S 151.208658000°E / -33.863902000; 151.208658000Coordinates: 33°51′50.0472″S 151°12′31.1688″E / 33.863902000°S 151.208658000°E / -33.863902000; 151.208658000
Tank Stream on a November 2008 tour

Tank Stream, a fresh water tributary of Sydney Cove, located in New South Wales, Australia, was the fresh water supply for the fledgling colony of New South Wales in the late 18th century. Today it is little more than a storm water drain. It originated from a swamp to the west of present-day Hyde Park and at high tide entered Sydney Cove at what is now the intersection of Bridge and Pitt Streets in the Sydney central business district. The catchment was 65 hectares (161 acres), corresponding roughly the size of the Sydney central business district.


Excavations around Tank Stream have uncovered aboriginal flake stone artifacts made from water-worn pebbles. The stream is thought to have given the Aboriginal people fresh water, fish and other resources.[1][2] The area was chosen by the commander of the First Fleet, Captain Arthur Phillip, R.N., in 1788 as the location for the New South Wales colony for similar reasons.

The colony had originally been planned for Botany Bay, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks who had visited the area with Captain James Cook 17 years earlier, but when no fresh water was found there, Phillip sought a better site, and found it in the previously unvisited Port Jackson. Sydney Cove was chosen for settlement as it "was at the head of the cove, near the run of fresh water which stole silently along through a very thick wood".[3] On 26 January 1788 the new colony was inaugurated.

The Tank Stream rose in marshy ground roughly bounded by what is now Elizabeth, Market, Pitt and Park Streets. It filtered through the soil between Pitt and George Streets before forming a definite channel near King Street and flowing to Sydney Cove.[4](p1)

During a drought in 1790 three storage tanks were constructed in the sandstone beside the Tank Stream and it is from these that the stream gets its name.[5] One of these was at the present intersection of Pitt and Spring Streets and the other two in Bond Street on the opposite side of the stream.[4](p2) The Tank Stream could not meet the needs of the growing colony and, despite efforts by successive Governors, it became increasingly polluted by runoff from the settlement.[4](p2) It was finally abandoned in 1826, though it had been little more than an open sewer for the preceding decade.[4](p3) Sydney's next supply of water was Busby's Bore, in 1830.[4](pp5–8)

In 1850 the swamp feeding the Tank Stream was drained[6]. Starting in 1860, the Tank Stream was progressively covered and is now a storm water channel which is controlled by Sydney Water. Recently there have been calls from some to see it run above ground again to create a central feature in the city.[7]


Tank Stream tours are run by the Sydney Living Museums and Sydney Water[8]. These are usually in April and November. The tickets are limited, doled by ballot. There is an information centre behind locked gates at the beginning of the tour. One can also trace the previous stream course following art work, street names, and pub names.

The Tank Stream has been commemorated in a sculpture by Stephen Walker, created in 1981. The sculpture is located at Circular Quay.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Korff, Jens. "Sydney (NSW) - Aboriginal sites (CBD): Tank Stream". Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Studies., Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (2001-01-01). Aboriginal Sydney : a guide to important places of the past and present. Aboriginal Studies Press. p. 3. ISBN 0855753706. OCLC 47152902. 
  3. ^ Collins, David (1802). Account of the English Colony of New South Wales. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Aird, W. V. (1961). The Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage of Sydney. M.W.S.&D.B. 
  5. ^ "The Tank Stream". City of Sydney. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  6. ^ http://tankstream.org.au/history
  7. ^ Cameron, Deborah (14 November 2007). "Tank Stream dreaming". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  8. ^ https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/events/tank-stream-tours-may-2017-ballot

External links[edit]