Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board

Detail Sheets

An overview of the Detail Sheets created by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (MWS&DB) from c.1904 to 1945 and how to access them.

About the Detail Sheets

The Detail Sheets are a series of plans created by the MWS&DB to record details of sewer mains and sanitary drainage. They are Open to Public Access (OPA).

Locations covered

Covering Sydney and suburbs the detail sheets record municipality, title and location of the Board's works, details of pipes and manholes, positions of buildings, roads, tram lines, railways, and geographic features such as creeks. Also included is information about buildings which existed at the time of survey. Details of houses may include street name, house number and name, lot number, the outline of the ground floor and details of construction material. Where lots are vacant the boundaries of title with title references may be shown.

Time period

There are some sheets which are based on surveys as early as 1904, some have been redrawn and some have had additional information plotted up to 1945. The majority of sheets date between 1910 and 1940.

Further information in the catalogue


The Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (MWS&DB) was established on 31 March, 1925 by An Act to provide for the water supply, sewerage and stormwater drainage of certain districts in and adjacent to the County of Cumberland, 1924 (Act No, 50, 1924).

The Board was responsible for the conservation, preservation and distribution of water for domestic and other uses; the provision of reticulation and other means for the discharge of sewerage and its treatment and disposal; the construction, control and management of stormwater channels assigned to or vested in it; the administration and management of all properties from time to time vested in it; the operation and maintenance, and where necessary, the improvement and extension of all works from time to time vested in it; the construction of any new, additional or supplementary works of water supply, sewerage or drainage; and, the extension of its services to areas or districts not served with its mains, or sewers or drains.

In 1987 the Board was reconstituted as the Water Board, which was abolished in 1994 and the Sydney Water Corporation Limited was established as its successor on 1 January 1995.

How to search the Detail Sheets

Consult:NRS 9942, Key Maps for detail sheets [Maps 390-441] and locate the correct map covering the suburb required. Photocopies and aperture card copies of these maps are available in the Reading Room.
Consult the map, locate the specific area required and note the number given. This is the Detail Sheet number.
Consult:NRS 9944, List of Detail Sheets [2/1] and locate the Detail Sheet number in the left hand column. Read across the page to the column headed 'DS Original No.' and note the number given. If there is no number in the DS Original No. column the Detail Sheet is not held by us.
Consult the item list in the reading room for:NRS 9941, Detail Sheets, c.1901-45, [Maps 13431-16247] to convert the DS Original No. into an SR map number.
Request and view the map in the Reading Room, citing the SR map number.You will need to have a reader's ticket to view original records. 
List of Public Works Department surveys, Sydney and suburbs, S.1544 seriesThe plans listed were originally Lands Department plans and used by Public Works for the sewering of Sydney.
List of municipalities and shires for which PWD S.1544 series and Water Board D5 series detail sheets have been drawnMunicipalities as at the time of survey (c. 1880-1890) are listed against the names of municipalities as they were in 1975.
Public Works Department (PWD) 'A Survey of the Sydney area for Sewerage purposes', Catalogue S.1544These plans are based on surveys made by the Surveyor Generals Department between 1873 and 1915. The plans are held as an accession and can only be used by prior arrangement. Please see reading room staff for assistance.

Sydney Water Plan Room

In addition to other plans and surveys, Sydney Water holds three series of plans relating to the sewerage system in Sydney:

  1. Detail Survey Sheets (the '1930s series'), which supplemented the PWD plans and extended coverage to new areas. These were produced between 1917 and 1931.
  2. Blackwattle Sheets, based on the PWD plans, the Detail Survey sheets, as well as surveys by other organisations.

There is no public access to the Plan Room. Researchers should fax enquiries to (02) 9746 4365. There is a fee for research conducted.

Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

The Library holds Detail Sheets [Call no. ZM Ser 4 811.17/1] that were produced by the Surveyor General in the 1880s and 1890s. These are almost identical to the PWD series held by Sydney Water. The sheets cover Sydney City and some suburbs. The sheets show street blocks with accurate outlines of all buildings; sewer shafts and manholes, street numbers of premises.

This set of Detail Sheets is digitised and available online on the State Library website.