Friends of the Barwon (FOTB) is a catchment wide network of groups and individuals working to protect and restore the long-term health of the Barwon River and its tributaries through building partnerships, empowering communities, and engaging with government.
Our group’s purpose is:
‘To be an independent knowledge-based community leader and educator for the protection and improvement of the ecosystem of the Barwon catchment’.
A healthy, flowing and life sustaining Barwon River system is both our goal and our obligation to the generations to come.
Friends of the Barwon Committee 2023
Chair: Trevor Hodson firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy Chair: Vacant
Treasurer: Hugh Stewart
Spokesperson: Lach Gordon
Committee: Sarah Brien
Executive Officer: Liz Hamilton,
Postal address: Unit 1, 58 Main Street, Birregurra 3242
Photo: FOTB Committee members from L to R: Ewen McMillan, Trent Griffiths, Mary Dracup, Hugh Stewart, Trevor Hodson, Lach Gordon, Sarah Brien, Andrea Montgomery
Why is a group such as ours needed?
The Barwon system comprises two basins or catchments and includes the Yarrowee /Leigh and Moorabool rivers, and several hundred kilometres of minor tributaries. It closely approximates the G21 region boundary and provides the bulk of water supplies to the population within this region.
State government estimates predict this population will increase around 35% by 2031. Roughly 3/4 of this population live in the greater Geelong area so the majority of the catchment population are urban dwellers. They are mainly oblivious to the precarious state of the river environment and the threat to it from ever increasing demands for water.
Population growth is just one of many threats to the catchment. In 2016, there was a massive fish kill in the Upper Barwon from Boundary Creek (downstream of the West Barwon Dam) to Winchesea. The primary cause, draining of the lower tertiary aquifer underlying the Big Swamp on Boundary Creek by the Barwon Water borefield, is now accepted. Drying of the acid sulphate peat swamp followed by peat fires, oxidation of sulphuric sediments, subsequent production and discharge of sulphuric acid and and heavy metals culminated in the fish kill. Subsequently an extremely difficult and costly remediation project of Big Swamp on Boundary Creek is now underway.
For at least 40,000 years, the indigenous people including the Wadawurrung and Colijan peoples kept the river system in pristine condition. It was their world and a place of magnificent abundance. In less than 200 years of European settlement, the list of ecological assaults on the river goes something like this:
- Deforestation, drainage and clearing
- Introduction of cloven hoofed animals
- Introduction of pests, diseases, weeds, fauna
- Over extraction of surface and underground water
- Pollution and contamination of water
- Areas of complete removal of riparian vegetation
- Dumping of hundreds of thousands of tons of salt from drainage into the river
- Releases of stormwater, treated effluent and mining dewatering.
In recent years low river flows and cease-to-flow events have become more common. In the last twenty years average annual rainfall at various points along the river has dropped around 20% accompanied by an even greater reduction in gauged runoff. It has been demonstrated that when a catchments’ rainfall-runoff processes change significantly in response to prolonged dry conditions, runoff is consistently overestimated. Surface water availability will continue to be affected by predicted climate change.
A 2020 report by Dept. of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) titled Long-Term Water Resource Assessment indicated an 11% decline in available water (based on the long-term water resources period from 1975 to the present):
Amongst other impacts, flow cessation makes platypuses retreat to any deep holes and food supply becomes a serious issue. Several native fish in the river must migrate from fresh water to the estuary to breed including Spotted Galaxias, Tupong, Short finned Eel, Australian Smelt and Common Jollytail. Australian Grayling migrate in the opposite direction to breed.
Landcare and CCMA have done much work to protect the river and repair riparian damage. However, there is much still to be done. The Barwon desperately needs a single independent voice to advocate for a living river. Friends of the Barwon was launched in May 2019 to be that voice. The steering committee of Friends of the Barwon has excellent relationships with all relevant authorities and is represented on the Ministers Advisory Committee for the Barwon by Dr Peter Greig. The committee represents the Barwon both geographically and in skills/experience including ex. Board members of Barwon Water, Board and Chair of CCMA, ex. CEO of S.A.Farmers Federation and farmers, scientists and Landcare Network committee members.
The Barwon needs a strategic, holistic plan such as that embodied in the Yarra River Protection Act 2017, and most significantly needs realistic and guaranteed Environmental Water Holdings to keep the river system alive for future generations.
Our River System
The Barwon system comprises two basins or catchments and includes the Yarrowee /Leigh and Moorabool rivers, and several hundred kilometres of minor tributaries. It closely approximates the G21 region boundary.
State government estimates predict a population increase for this region of 35% by 2031. Roughly 3/4 of this population live in the greater Geelong area so the majority of the catchment population are urban dwellers.
The surface and ground water within the Barwon System provide the bulk of the water used by the population within its catchment. This has placed enormous strain on its rivers resulting in frequent cease to flow events, acid releases causing large fish die-offs and a myriad of other impacts.