Draft Strategic for FOTB Member Input

Draft Strategic for FOTB Member Input

The FOTB Committee are looking for input from FOTB members to help us finalise our draft Strategic Plan to ensure that our goals and actions are achievable and relevant to both the needs of our river system and the aspirations of our members. We ask that you take a moment to read through the draft below and offer any ideas or feedback you may have by 23rd July:

Friends of the BarwonDRAFT Strategic Plan

Friends of the Barwon have developed this Strategic Plan to help guide our vision and goals for five years from 2024 to 2029. This Strategic Plan prioritises our work and engagement with our community and will be publicly available on our website as a statement of our mission and goals to the wider community.


Friends of the Barwon (FOTB) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands on which the Barwon River flows, the Wadawurrung and Eastern Maar, where FOTB operates and its members work and live. We pay our respects to elders past and present and recognise the continuing connection to land, water, sky and community of these peoples.

Who we are

Friends of the Barwon is an incorporated, catchment-wide network of groups and individuals working to protect and restore the long-term health of the Barwon River, its tributaries and catchments (‘Barwon River system’), through building partnerships and empowering communities.

Our committee is made up of volunteers with diverse backgrounds who all share a passion for protecting and improving the health of the Barwon River system.

We work with landholders, government, agencies, community groups and industry to make sure we all use water more wisely, build our cities more sustainably, and create healthier environments.


Waterways are the lifeblood of country and communities, but our waterways across the broader Barwon River system need our help.

More people than ever call Geelong, the Bellarine, the Surf Coast, the Otway Ranges and Ballarat home. Climate change is shrinking how much rain makes its way into our reservoirs. Increasing populations mean that people are taking more water from our rivers and groundwater systems, more often. More roads and roofs in our towns and cities send more polluted stormwater into our waterways.

The Barwon River system is large, comprising two basins or catchments, and includes the Yarrowee/Leigh and Moorabool rivers, and several hundred kilometres of minor tributaries. It extends from the Otway Ranges to Geelong and Barwon Heads. To the north it reaches as far as Ballarat. Much of the catchment has been significantly modified by settlement.

The surface and groundwater within the Barwon River 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.

During the period of 1975 to 2017, records show that the average surface water availability was 232.5 GL/year, a decline of 11 per cent compared with the historical average surface water availability, which was 262.1 GL/year. The period since 1997 shows further declines in water availability (DELWP, 2020).

Over time, annual rainfall totals for the Barwon region are likely to decline, particularly under high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, with the greatest drying in spring. By late-century under high emissions, the climate change trend becomes obvious compared to natural variability, with a 24 per cent median decrease in annual totals; in spring this decrease is predicted to be 34 per cent (DELWP & CSIRO, 2019).

Formation of the Friends of the Barwon in October 2018 was triggered by concerns about a series of low- or no-flow events in the Barwon River around Winchelsea and the lack of communication between agencies or groups caring for the river. Founding members realised the need for a group focussed on the improvement of the whole Barwon River system. So began our journey.

Our vision

A healthy, flowing and life-sustaining Barwon River system is both our vision for the future and our obligation to the generations to come.

Our mission

Friends of the Barwon will contribute to our vision by acting as an independent knowledge-based community leader and educator for the protection and improvement of the ecosystem of the Barwon River system. 

Our purpose

The purpose of our association is to represent and work on behalf of members towards ensuring that the rivers, tributaries, wetlands and estuaries of the Barwon River system are:

  1. ecologically healthy, well-connected and resilient, both now and in the long term;
  2. managed according to scientifically-proven sustainable land and water management practices;
  3. protected through the provision of adequate long-term environmental flows; and
  4. embraced by communities that are engaged in protecting the natural environment. 

Focus areas

As a small, not-for-profit organisation, Friends of the Barwon needs to be mindful of the fact that delivering on our purpose relies primarily on volunteer time, and that there are many other active and successful community groups who work to protect and enhance the environment throughout the Barwon River system. We need to target our efforts to make best use of our volunteer time and other available resources.

Following consultation with members and stakeholders, four focus areas have been identified as the priorities for FOTB over the life of this plan.


Provide a ‘voice’ for the Barwon River system, focused on protecting and improving its unique values:

  • Advocate for actions by and policies from land managers, private interests and other stakeholders that support our vision.
  • Promote and, where feasible, assist FOTB members and other key stakeholders with engagement opportunities and actions that have positive outcomes for the Barwon River system.
  • Investigate issues that have the potential to impact negatively on the Barwon River system and pursue those issues with the relevant individuals, organisations and authorities.
  • Provide guidance and support to FOTB members and other key stakeholders around issues that have the potential to negatively impact the Barwon River system.


Cultivate and maintain partnerships with relevant affiliate organisations, government land and waterway managers, Traditional Owners, landholders and other users of the Barwon River system:

  • Maintain regular, open and frank dialogue with agencies and other groups and individuals caring for the Barwon River system.
  • Build and maintain partnerships with Traditional Custodians of Barwon River country.
  • Provide FOTB representation on committees and -alliances with significant influence or oversight of Victorian rivers, including the Concerned Waterways Alliance, Barwon Water Environmental Advisory Committee and Lower Barwon Seasonal Water Advisory Committee.
  • Maintain membership and voting delegation to organisations and other bodies with significant influence or oversight of the Barwon River system, including Landcare Victoria Inc., Bellarine Catchment Network and the Geelong Environment Council.
  • Encourage stakeholders to participate as observers in FOTB committee meetings and attend our AGM.

Inform and empower

Empower FOTB members and other stakeholders through two-way knowledge sharing of matters and issues relating to the health of the Barwon River system:

  • Educate and support our committee and other key volunteers so they are well informed and have a meaningful role in FOTB.
  • Produce and circulate widely, regular newsletters focussed on matters relevant to the Barwon River system.
  • Use direct email and/or social media posts to promote FOTB and matters relevant to the health of the Barwon River system.
  • Regularly disseminate news items to media channels to encourage media promotion of FOTB activities and concerns.
  • Maintain and regularly update the FOTB website and promote new content widely.
  • Explore opportunities to increase knowledge of river and catchment management and issues in the community through webinars and other events.

Organisational sustainability

Ensure that FOTB continues to thrive as organisation, now and into the future:

  • Encourage members to join FOTB’s committee and/or expand their contribution to FOTB through increased involvement in specific tasks.
  • Continue to develop and maintain strong governance protocols, which are reviewed annually.
  • Actively seek ongoing and/or periodic funding opportunities for FOTB through partner organisations, members and other stakeholders.


DELWP (2020) Long-term water resource assessment for Southern Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, pp. 158-160.

DELWP and CSIRO (2019 – updated 2020) Barwon climate projections 2019. JM Clarke, M Grose, M Thatcher, V Round & C Heady. CSIRO, Melbourne Australia.

Water Matters – “Talk It Up” Event Summary

Water Matters – “Talk It Up” Event Summary

By Liz Hamilton

Along with 60 or so people, I recently attended the “Talk It Up” session hosted by the Geelong Regional Library & Heritage Centre. 

Barwon Water’s Managing Director, Shaun Cumming, chaired the session which featured a stellar line-up of speakers. Shaun provided an overview of some of the challenges for the Barwon catchment as our climate continues to become drier and rainfall more erratic leading to less water flowing into rivers and being captured in storage. He also gave an overview of the work that Barwon Water is doing to reduce water consumption and the importance of the Wonthaggi desalination plant in securing Melbourne’s water supply which in turn, enables water to be supplied to Geelong through the Melbourne to Geelong pipeline.

Since the Millennium Drought (from 1996 to 2010), there has been a ‘step change’ reduction of average annual inflows compared to the long-term average. On average, the West Barwon Reservoir in the Otway Ranges, has experienced 30% reduction in annual inflows since 1997, amounting to a third of the Greater Geelong region’s annual water use. As our climate continues to warm, our rainfall is predicted to decrease across the region with generally less rainfall in winter and spring. Yet despite this, authorities are faced with the challenge of providing water to the Geelong region, which has one of Australia’s fastest growing populations and two of the nation’s most flow-stressed rivers – the Barwon and the Moorabool.

Award winning Climate Scientist, Joëlle Gergis, set the scene around recent trends and observations and forecast changes to our climate in coming decades. Joëlle’s presentation was sobering to say the least as she explained how Australia’s geographical characteristics and associated climate drivers mean that our continent is warming faster than the global average – temperatures have risen by 1.5°C since 1910, compared with the 1.2°C global average increase.

Joëlle told us how Australia’s already erratic and variable climate is rapidly becoming more extreme and unpredictable, bringing us closer to breaching thresholds that we may not be able adapt to. The forecast trend of reduced rainfall will lead to further long-term reduction of in-flows to our reservoirs.

Joëlle referred to her newly published Quarterly Essay Highway to Hell: Climate Change and Australia’s Future – the title of which was inspired by UN Secretary-General António Guterres statement that humanity is “on the Highway to Hell with its foot on the accelerator!”

Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, Corrina Eccles, shared her knowledge of the importance of water to the Wadawurrung people, who traditionally lived across and cared for, the diverse waterways, wetlands, estuaries and coastline of the Barwon region. The Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WTOAC) have a two full time staff working on water projects and issues on Wadawurrung country.

Corrina talked of her thrill with WTOAC involvement in delivery of water to the Moorabool Yaluk (river) and the Durdidwarrah wetland; a wetland which had been dry for many years due to river diversions practices from earlier European settlement times.

Cameron Steele, Co-ordinator of the People for a Living Moorabool (PALM) also talked about the watering of the Moorabool and the Durdidwarrah wetland and his joy in witnessing the return of sound, movement and life to the wetland. The importance of the work that PALM has been undertaking for many years is undeniable.

A SKM report from over 15 years ago indicated that natural flow at Batesford had decreased by 90%. More recently, the 2020 State governments long – term water assessment indicated that for the Moorabool, the measured inflows have decreased by 21% over the last 15 years, indicating the need to continue fighting for the river. Cam also emphasised the importance of ensuring that our water managers and the community in general are taken onto the river to experience the beauty of our waterways and to see for themselves the issues that our rivers face.

Deakin University’s acting Director of Sustainability, Zoe Roloff, outlined her work in the development of an Integrated Water Management Plan for the university. The Deakin campus was developed on farmland in 1974. Bordered by the Waurn Ponds creek, the campus infrastructure was essentially built along the bottom of a gully. The campus is prone to serious flooding as witnessed in 2017 and 2018 when 1 in 100 and 1 in 200 – year storm events occurred. Resulting in millions of dollars of damage, these events were a wake-up call for the university, and prompted the engagement of a consultant to help with development of an integrated water management plan in consultation with stakeholders.

Two priority projects are currently being delivered. The first project has turned a muddy stormwater drainage system into a constructed wetland; 18 months on and the wetland is really starting to thrive. The second project will be delivering Class A water from Armstrong Creek to the campus for irrigation. Previously Deakin were purchasing about 60 ML of potable water for this use. 

It was really encouraging to hear from people with a genuine passion and hope for the future of our waterways, as well as some of the positive actions that are being undertaken by the community and water managers. However, there is still much to do if we are to keep our rivers healthy for future generations to come.  

The event finished with a short Q&A.

A video recording of the “Talk It Up – Water Matters” event is available through the Geelong Library’s YouTube channel.

Talk It Up- Water Matters event
Be a watchdog for our waterways!

Be a watchdog for our waterways!

Q. Qui garde nos rivieres?

 A. Friends of the Barwon has always acted as a guardian or watchdog for the waterways in our region.

 Importantly, we have made major contributions to the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (C&GSWS) (DELWP-2022), and also to the Rivers of the Barwon (Barre Warre Yulluk ) Action Plan (BWYAP) (DELWP -2021).

Together, these two documents represent the management blueprint for government authorities to follow to ensure the regions water supplies while protecting the environment with a 50-year vision.

The original Sustainable Water Strategy

There was a previous Central Sustainable Water Strategy (DELWP- 2006) which was a new, forward thinking and ambitious approach to water planning. Its weakness was that many of the actions anticipated were never implemented, or alternatively, massively delayed.

An example; one gigalitre (GL) of Environmental Water Holding was to be allocated to the Upper Barwon, but was only finally delivered in 2018 – twelve years after it was proposed!

How do we keep the Strategies honest?

Community groups (like FOTB) acting as river guardians are the only safeguards to ensure that what is promised is actually delivered in our region.

We can do this by continual referencing and monitoring of the implementation of actions contained in the above two documents.

To simplify this audit process, we have created a spreadsheet (see below) for anticipated actions specific to our region within the C&GSWS, and we also reproduced the Implementation page of the BWYAP (below).

(Note: more detail on the specific actions can be found in the full versions of the C&GSWS and BWYAP reports on the DEECA website – see the links above.

Please take a look at the actions proposed, check on progress, and see what’s most important to you.

Be a watchdog for our waterways!

Authorities and locals working to restore our river health

Authorities and locals working to restore our river health

Willows and non-native river grass Glyceria (Glyceria maxima or River Sweet Grass) have been removed with revegetation occurring along 11.8 km of the east and west branches of the Barwon River near Forrest, as Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) works in partnership with land managers to improve the river’s flow and health.

Around 30 people from Forrest and the surrounding region heard about the Barwon Flagship Waterway project lead by the CCMA in partnership with Barwon Water and the Upper Barwon Landcare Network in a forum at Forrest Hall in late March. The Flagship began in 2021, prioritising the upper Barwon due to the need to remove choke points from willows and Glyceria that cause flooding and prevent water from flowing to the lower reaches of the river.

Attendees also visited a site just north of Forrest to see a revegetated site and do a short hands-on citizen science ‘waterbug survey’ which the CCMA regularly hosts to monitor river health.

Participants including farmers, Landcare members and others who are interested in the river, heard about the fragile health of the river at present, the importance of environmental water, the need for 65 km of willow removal and revegetation, and how methods are being developed and adapted to achieve all this with flexibility to enable riverside farms to thrive.

The CCMA outlined the Waterway Management Plan, which guides the Flagship Waterway project over the next 30 years to achieve its 2050 vision. Barwon Water provided an update on their East Barwon willow removal and restoration project. This included drone footage showing the progress of 2022-23 and 2023-24 stages of willow removal along the East Barwon River under Barwon Water management, as well as information about the fish-friendly rock steps and other means being used to re-establish healthy river ecology.

Attendees asked many searching questions, both during the presentations and afterwards in one-on-one conversations with CCMA, Barwon Water and Upper Barwon Landcare Network staff over a BBQ lunch, provided by Gerangamete and Forrest Landcare members.

More information on the Barwon Flagship Waterway project, including how to get involved, is available at the CMA website: https://ccma.vic.gov.au/projects/barwon-flagship-waterway/.

Author: Mary Dracup (Gerangamete and Forrest Landcare) with support from Corangamite CMA and Barwon Water

Forrest hall What's going on with our river meeting

Images: Citizen science ‘waterbug survey’ and presentations at the Forrest hall- Mary Dracup