By Lach Gordon, Acting Chair – FOTB

Our Chair, Trevor Hudson has taken two months leave of absence due to an ongoing chest infection. On behalf of the Committee, I wish him a speedy and complete recuperation. We will, albeit temporarily, miss his outstanding leadership and contribution to our organisation.

No doubt many of you will remember the Upper Barwon fish kill event of June 2016 which was one of the drivers of the formation of Friends of the Barwon. Some history…

During and after the Millennium drought Geelong water supply was at critical levels. Barwon Water’s only option for supplementation was to knowingly extract unsustainable quantities of water from their Gerangamete borefield. The borefield pumping was the major factor in lowering the water table beneath the Big Swamp situated midway in the Boundary Creek. Dehydration and oxidation of the acid sulphate soils in the swamp altered their chemistry. The “first flush” rain in 2016 released significant volumes of sulphuric acid into Boundary Creek, then into the Barwon at the confluence. This caused the 2016 fish kill. The then Minister’s decision to halt the pumping was welcomed after an outraged community response.

In 2018 Barwon Water under new leadership formed the Boundary Creek remediation working group. I joined this group at its outset, which continues today. The group broke new ground as it involved many community members and independent experts as well as Barwon Water representatives. Some of us were concerned about acid effects on the aquatic biota – particularly fish, amphibians and macroinvertebrates. We suggested then (and in later years) biota surveys above and below the Boundary Creek confluence. Austral Consulting did do some preliminary macroinvertebrate surveying in 2019, followed by further and expanded survey work in Spring 2023. Some improvement in invertebrate Biotic indices has occurred over time, but more conclusions will be drawn after an Autumn 2024 survey.

On February 29, I went along to a very well attended electrofishing demonstration on the Barwon near Forrest. CCMA and Barwon Water are partnering to assess the health of fish populations in the Upper Barwon River. Arthur Rylah Institute has been engaged to do the surveys this February and again at a similar time next year. Electrofishing uses direct current flowing between a submerged Cathode and Anode. This affects the movements of nearby fish, so they swim towards the anode where they can be caught and stunned. It is used to sample fish populations to determine abundance, density and species composition.

Nearly eight years after the fish kill we will finally get the fish data requested!

Footnote: The Big Swamp is recovering well, pH values, vegetation and groundwater have all improved and contingency measures are in place to prevent a recurrence of acid conditions.

The working group continues with emphasis now on the surrounding areas investigation.

Barwon Water should be congratulated on the transparent manner they have conducted this expensive and difficult remediation project. The independent (and highly qualified) experts were very complementary of the working group process, and at one stage suggested that the remediation project should be written up as a world class textbook example for remediation projects. High praise indeed!

Friends of the Barwon welcomes the recent announcement by Minister for Water Harriet Shing of new funding to protect Victoria’s waterways and wildlife. The State governments’ Green Links Grant programme announcement includes $1.77 million to undertake revegetation works along the Barwon River corridor – including the Moorabool River, the Barwon River and Waurn Ponds Creek. FOTB anticipate that the funding will be used to extend the very successful project on the Barwon at Birregurra known as Platypus Point.

Additionally, more than $700,000 has been allocated to help restore the Yarrowee River.

Read more here…..

Image:  Platypus Point on the Barwon River – Courtesy of The Surf Coast Times

Gerangamete and Forrest Landcare Group are co-hosting a follow-up What’s going on with our river? event in Forrest on Saturday 23 March, and you are warmly invited.

In 2022 you heard about the difficulties of managing the Upper Barwon River to maintain a healthy ecosystem in the face of dwindling flows and increasing demand for water. We thought you’d be interested to hear about the large amount of work that’s been done since then on private and public land in this area to improve the health of the river under the Corangamite CMA Flagship Project. A lot more of this work is planned under the Barwon Flagship Water Management Plan, which will be launched at this event.

You will hear again from water managers, scientists and citizen science coordinators from Barwon Water and Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA), who will focus on:

  • What has happened to improve the health of the river since 2022?
  • How is the health of the river now?
  • What is the Upper Barwon Flagship Project, how will this help the river, and how does it work on farms with river frontage?

This year’s event format is shorter, with just one hour for information presentations and questions in the hall, and a one-hour field trip to a site on the West Barwon River near Forrest where glyceria and willows have been removed and thousands of plants have gone in as part of the Flagship Project.

We will finish with a BBQ lunch back at the Forrest Hall and a chance for informal Q&A with CCMA and Barwon Water representatives.

Gerangamete and Forrest Landcare Group are again co-hosting this event with CCMA, Barwon Water and the Upper Barwon Landcare Network. Please feel free to forward this invitation to others you think might be interested in finding out more about the ongoing health and management of the Upper Barwon River.

Schedule:

9:30am Tea/coffee available on arrival at Forrest Hall

10am Welcome to Country, info presentations from CCMA and Barwon Water, Q&A

11am Optional visit to glyceria revegetation trial site near Forrest

12pm BBQ lunch back at hall hosted by Gerangamete and Forrest Landcare Group

Please see the flyer below for more information. Don’t forget to RSVP for catering to Mary (0488 522 448).

Friends of the Barwon (FOTB) were recently involved in a successful Clean Up Australia event on the Barwon River. Over 20 locals (adults and children) who are passionate about protecting our waterways from pollution, joined FOTB members to help clean up a section alongside the Barwon River around the Ceres Bridge that was in real need of some TLC! 

As you can see from the photos below, we certainly found a lot more rubbish than we expected! A lot of it was hidden under the long grass but there were also some big piles of rubbish that had been dumped quite a while ago that we cleaned up.

As a follow up, we have put in a suggestion to the City of Greater Geelong Environment team for council to consider putting a locked gate near the entrance of the track to stop people from using this secluded spot for dumping their rubbish…. Maybe the gate could be accompanied by a sign explaining that it is locked due to the high level of rubbish dumping that has been going on.

A big thank you to all who helped out on the day, especially FOTB Committee member, Trent Griffiths, for organising the event. Thanks also to the Waste Management Team at the City of Greater Geelong who have followed up by picking up two piles of hard rubbish, 17 bags of general waste, 2 bags of recycling and one of polystyrene that we collected.

This event was registered as part of  Clean Up Australia – Barwon River beside Ceres Bridge, Ceres

In the words of Committee member, Trent Griffiths:

The Barwon is mighty,

The rubbish unsightly! 

Let’s give the platypi a chance

To do their platypodi dance

In water that has an ab-sance

Of stinky rotten litter! 

Images: Trent Griffiths

On 1st March, the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) temporarily closed the Barwon River in Geelong following a blue-green algae outbreak.

The Barwon River is closed with warning signs placed along affected stretches of waterway to notify the public.

A combination of hot weather, low water flows and high nutrient levels in the Barwon River have contributed to the outbreak. Testing results have shown that high levels of toxic blue green algae have been found in two sampling locations.

For more information , visit the CCMA website

Friends of the Barwon Inc. were recently informed that our application to be a tax – Deductible Gift Recipient has been successful, and as such FOTB and its public fund have successfully been entered onto the Register of Environmental Organisations (REO) as of 29 November 2023.

This means that donations made to the public fund from this date of entry are eligible for a tax deduction under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (the Act). The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been notified of the organisation’s entry onto the REO and will update the organisation’s Australian Business Register entry to reflect the public fund’s endorsement as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR).

As a Not for Profit, FOTB operates on a very small budget which primarily covers the Executive Officer (EO) role for just 7.6 hours per week. All other work undertaken by the Committee, other members and the Executive Officer is voluntary. If you would like to help secure the future of FOTB and maybe expand our activities, please consider making a tax -deductible donation to Friends of the Barwon either through our Join Us page on our website or email friendsofthebarwon@gmail.com to discuss your ideas.

FOTB were represented at VCAT recently in relation to 40 River Drive, Teesdale. The developer was appealing the decision of the Golden Plains shire not to grant permission to subdivide their property. The hearing has been delayed whilst more information is supplied before a further hearing time.

In regards to rehabilitation of the Motor Cycle Facility at Fyansford, the Corangamite CMA (CCMA) has advised that the plans are nearly finalised and the rehabilitation of the site will be closely supervised by the CCMA and City of Greater Geelong (CoGG).

Image: Courtesy Geelong Advertiser

Did you know flood mapping for the Corangamite region is now available on Digital Twin Victoria?

You can check it out here https://vic.digitaltwin.terria.io/…

The map shows the 1% AEP (100-year ARI) regional flood extent for riverine flooding in the Corangamite region. Other regional maps and data is also available.

Please note: stormwater and coastal flood mapping is not currently available on DTV in the Corangamite region. Please check back for update.

Where flood extents are known, local councils are accountable for ensuring that their Planning Schemes correctly identify the areas of risk of a 1% AEP flood. Not all flood mapping has been identified in Council’s Planning Schemes, so it is important to check with the CMA and Council for any available mapping.

Flood advice can be obtained by visiting our website https://ccma.vic.gov.au/floodplains/

Image: Courtesy Digital Twin Victoria

Interested in the findings of our citizen scientists and how they have contributed to our knowledge of the health of our river? Well, the summary report, (the Upper Barwon Water Quality Report Card) for 2020 – 23 is a great place to start!

This report card summarises the work that Landcare members, Corangamite CMA staff and numerous individuals in the local community have done over the last three years. 

Volunteers have visited testing sites and collected data on a monthly basis, and this information has been incorporated into this report on water quality, freshwater invertebrates and eDNA surveys. 

Image: Courtesy Corangamite CMA

The final Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto Langi-ut masterplan was formally released by Christine Couzens, State MP for Geelong, on behalf of the Minister for Water, the Hon. Harriet Shing, at the Moorabool River Reserve, Batesford on 14 February 2024.

The day included a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony conducted by Corrina Eccles (WTOAC), followed by presentations from Cath Jenkins (CCMA Board Chair), Christine Couzens (State MP for Geelong) and Greg Robinson (WTOAC Board Member) and culminating in a walk around the Moorabool River Reserve facilitated by Dale Smithyman (Golden Plains Shire Council).  

The masterplan includes a 10-year program of environmental and infrastructure works, including re-vegetation, weed control, water flow and quality improvements, shared cycle and walking trails, boating facilities, new proposed public open space and new public land managed by Wadawurrung Traditional Owners to promote Aboriginal traditional land and water management practices.

You can use the following link to view or download  the final Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto Langi-ut masterplan: Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut – Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (ccma.vic.gov.au).

The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority recently announced that releases of environmental water for the 2023-24 water year began on the 2nd of February 2024 at a rate of 2 megalitres/day down the west branch of the upper Barwon River and on the 7th of February increased to 5 megalitres/day.

These flows are on top of the minimum passing flow that Barwon Water releases down the west branch and any natural flow that might be in the river. These dry season (December-May) releases are the highest priority when planning releases from the Upper Barwon River Environmental Entitlement. They aim to maintain permanent water in the channel/pools to provide habitat to support resident and migratory fish, platypus and waterbugs. To learn the steps that the CCMA take while releases occur, click here to continue reading!

Image: Courtesy CosmoBates

Dr. Wayne Koster of the Arthur Rylah Institute, at the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, talks about native fish recovery and research. Wayne leads research projects on native fish ecology and conservation across Victoria and more broadly in south-eastern Australia.  

The focus of much of Wayne’s recent work has been on the movement and spawning ecology and conservation implications for riverine fishes, particularly the development of flow regimes for fish in regulated rivers. He also does some fascinating work monitoring and tracking eels in our rivers and oceans.

Saving Australia’s native fish with Dr. Wayne Koster — Episode 25 – Australian River Restoration Centre (arrc.au)

More fascinating podcasts featuring passionate scientists, landholders and indigenous leaders are available at the Australian River Restoration website.

Photo: Courtesy ARRC

Barwon Water is partnering with Corangamite Catchment Management Authority on a research project to assess the health of fish populations within the Upper Barwon River. An electro fishing demonstration event was recently held in Forrest to explain how this work will be undertaken.

Image: Electro fishing demonstration event on the Barwon River, Courtesy Lach Gordon

Both the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and Barwon Water have been undertaking willow removal programs on sections of the Barwon River which fall under their jurisdiction.

Since December 2023, the CCMA have been remediating a section of the West Branch of the Barwon River between Birregurra-Forrest Road and Boundary Road, including the removal of willows on over three kilometres of river frontage. Works on the East Branch removed willows from approximately 1.7 kilometres of river frontage. To find out more, visit the CCMA website

Barwon Water’s work has involved remediation and stabilisation of the streambed and banks and removal of the willow trees downstream of the Wurdee Boluc Inlet Channel on the remaining 500 metres of Barwon Water managed land along the East Barwon River. To find out more, visit: www.yoursay.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/east-barwon-transfer

Photo: Willow removal works in progress on the West Barwon River, December 2023. Note: Willow stumps left in place to maintain bank stability – Courtesy CCMA.

FOTB recently supported an open letter imploring The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP to take a bold leadership stance on water recycling in Australia. You can read the full letter on the Clean Ocean Foundation website here.

Image: Courtesy Surfrider.org

In a proactive move to safeguard local waterways, EPA , with support from Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Corporation, deployed water quality monitoring devices known as “sondes” in two local waterways: the Barwon River in Geelong, between Settlement Road and Barwon Terrace, and Thompson Creek in Breamlea, between Dan’s Reserve, Blackgate Road and the Estuary mouth.

Designed to be self-sufficient, the sondes are equipped to transmit live data directly to EPA water quality officers, ensuring real-time updates on the health of these water bodies. To inform the public of the presence of these devices, each is accompanied by clear signage explaining its purpose.

This initiative aims to provide a comprehensive, long-term view of water quality trends in the Barwon River and Thompson Creek areas. By measuring key physical parameters such as temperature, salinity, turbidity, and pH, the sondes will play a crucial role in the ongoing efforts to protect and improve the aquatic environment.

For further inquiries or concerns, the public is encouraged to reach out via email to SouthWest.Region@epa.vic.gov.au.

Phote: Officers from water sciences team and Environment Protection on Country program installing water quality monitoring equipment in Thompsons Creek

Barwon Water has launched a new grants program to support the work of community groups across the region.

Grants of up to $5,000 are available for community-led initiatives from Little River and the Bellarine Peninsula in the east, down to Apollo Bay and across to Colac in the west.

Barwon Water is looking for projects that will help make the community a better place to live, help people to be active and connected, improve the local environment, encourage social inclusion and save water for the region.  

The new community grants program has broad eligibility criteria, designed to be inclusive and accessible.

Applications open on 1 February and close on 31 March.

As well as the Community Grants program, other school and business grants for water saving measures and well-being are also outlined at the Barwon Water website.

Day one – Thursday, 9 May: Forum (Bendigo Exhibition Centre) – topics will include collaborating and combining management practices, aggregating action for landscape scale impacts, water in the landscape and learning from our peers. Thursday will also feature a networking dinner.

Day two – Friday, 10 May: Bus tour one – showcasing landcare projects in the Bendigo region or bus tour two – showcasing partnerships between Traditional Owners and landcare.

Tickets can be purchased via Humanitix

Through Barwon Water’s WaterAssist Home Program you can upgrade your old single-flush toilet for free and save money on water bills.

Did you know single-flush toilets use up to 18 litres of water per flush compared to between 3 to 4.5 litres of water with a 4-star rated toilet? By switching to a new toilet you could save up to 100,000 litres of water a year and more than $200 on your water bill.

To be eligible for the toilet upgrade, you must be the owner of the property and receive Barwon Water bills. A licensed plumber will upgrade your old single-flush toilet, assess your home water use and identify any further opportunities to save water. Plumbing works will be undertaken up to the value of $300 for free.

For more information, visit the Barwon WaterAssist website or to organise a booking.

Image: Courtesy Housegrail.com

Our committee continues to put a great deal of voluntary time and effort into FOTB in our fight for a healthier river system. We would love to get more of our Friends actively involved with our work and there are a range of ways that your skills can be put to good work.

We are looking for Friends with skills including;

  • computer,
  • website and social media management,
  • photography,
  • research and involvement with relevant advisory committees.

If you would like to get more involved as a Committee member or in other ways that could help, please email Liz Hamilton at friendsofthebarwon@gmail.com or ring 0400 780680 and briefly outline what skills and time commitments you may be able to provide as well as your contact details.

New memberships and renewals can be made through PayPal or Direct Debit by via the Join Us page on our FOTB website. If you would like to join us as either an Affiliate Member or Sponsor, please email us at  friendsofthebarwon@gmail.com

Thanks for your support.

Chair:                   Trevor Hodson

Deputy Chair:       Lach Gordon

Treasurer:            Hugh Stewart

Secretary:            Hugh Stewart

Committee:         Lach Gordon (Spokesperson)     

                              Andrea Montgomery

                              Trent Griffiths

    Mary Dracup

    Ewen McMillan

                              Peter McCracken

Executive Officer:  Liz Hamilton, Email:  friendsofthebarwon@gmail.com

FOTB Website: www.friendsofthebarwon.org.au

Image: FOTB Steering Committee