Friends of the Barwon – Newsletter December 2023

Friends of the Barwon – Newsletter December 2023

Vol 15

Content:

Chair’s Message

Annual General Meeting November 2023

Protecting the Barwon – Five years of work undertaken by the FOTB

Following up on ‘What’s going on with our river?’ forum

From Upper Barwon to Geelong – How to manage part of a complex water supply system

FOTB Response to the Northern Western Geelong Growth Areas Draft Strategic Plan

FOTB Submission to Victorian Waterway Management Discussion Starter

EPA water quality monitors on the Barwon River and Thompsons Creek

The Platypus Guardian

Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut “Places of Many Stories” Masterplan

Opportunities to get more involved with Friends of the Barwon

Membership Renewal Reminder

FOTB Contacts

Chair’s Message

By Trevor Hodson, President – FOTB

As another year draws to a close, we can look back on a busy year. The Committee meets regularly, usually via Zoom to discuss the various issues that come across its desk.

One thing that is becoming very apparent is the amount of time we spend on planning issues, whether it be small subdivisions such as in River Drive, Teesdale, the large-scale developments such as the proposed residential village on De Goldis Road or the Northern and Western Geelong Growth Area (NWGGA). We are also awaiting resolution of the unauthorised earthworks at the Motorcycle Training Facility at Fyansford. All these developments have, or could, adversely impact the Barwon.

We continue to liaise with agencies like the CCMA and Barwon Water. We benefit greatly from the high-level access we have with both these organisations. Briefings are often arranged to discuss issues like the Anglesea Borefield or Water Security in our region and the developing water grid. We have had a prompt response to our concerns about the Blue-Green Algal Outbreak in the West Barwon Reservoir.

As we start into an El Nino weather event we must continue to push for a greater and better use of recycled (manufactured) water to reduce the strain on our rivers and preserve the water in them for environmental and cultural flows. Our state Government needs to be encouraged to change its denial of the use of recycled water for drinking. It is suggested the state will need an additional 130 gigalitres of water over the next decade to ensure its water security. That can be achieved by optimising the use of waste water discharged to the ocean currently or build another desalination plant. We don’t know how long the El Nino event will last but we should be planning ahead just in case we have a repeat of the Millenium Drought.

I would like to thank all the members of the Committee and our members for their support and efforts in the past year. I wish you all the best for the festive season ahead of us and look forward to what we can achieve next year.

Annual General Meeting November 2023 Minutes

FOTB held our Annual General Meeting on 22nd November. Around thirty members (and members-to-be) joined us to hear about the many issues that the FOTB committee members and other friends and affiliates of FOTB have been busily working on over the last 18 months. Our guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Amber Clarke, recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority. Amber outlined her background, including her PhD research on macroinvertebrates in headwater streams, and gave us an overview of the CCMA’s vision and goals for waterways in the region, including resource condition monitoring now and in the future.

The full minutes are detailed on the FOTB website here.

Image: FOTB AGM Nov 2023

Attendees at the Nov 2023 AGM
Attendees at the Nov 2023 AGM

Protecting the Barwon – Five years of work undertaken by the FOTB

By Trevor Hodson

The Friends of the Barwon was formally launched in October 2018 at the Provenance Winery. It was proposed in 2017 at a CCMA workshop when a member of the Upper Barwon Landcare Network raised concerns about a series of low or no flow events in the Barwon around Winchelsea and the lack of communication between agencies or groups caring for the river. Coincidentally, a walk was undertaken by a group of Landcarers in stages over three years (2014, 2015 and 2016) from the origin of the Barwon at Forrest to the mouth of the Barwon at Barwon Heads.  A book cataloguing the walk – “From Source to Sea” followed and described the adventure. The book revealed much about the state of the Barwon. The hidden secret gems and the areas where man-made intrusions laid waste to the wondrous beauty of the river.

In 2016 there was a major fish kill in the Barwon as the result of acidic inflows from Boundary Creek. Whilst residents of Geelong see a small part of the Barwon, it is not the whole picture. It was realised there needed to be a group that had as its primary intention the improvement of the whole Barwon catchment. So began our journey……. continue reading here

Image: Kayaking near the confluence of the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers

From Upper Barwon to Geelong – How to manage part of a complex water supply system

By Lach Gordon, Deputy Chair, FOTB

As most readers will know the 51km2 Barwon (Otway) catchment fills the West Barwon reservoir (above Forrest) which then gravity fills the Wurdee Boluc reservoir (at Modewarre) by the incredibly convoluted 57km Wurdee Boluc inlet channel.

At Wurdee Boluc water is treated before delivery to Geelong by mains pipe. Wurdee Boluc receives additional water which is extracted from several tributaries of the Upper Barwon by means of diversion weirs. These flows are also delivered by the Wurdee Boluc inlet channel.

Heavy Lifting

West Barwon reservoir and Wurdee Boluc reservoir do the heavy lifting of water supply to Geelong with a combined storage capacity of 59.5 gigalitres (GL), whereas the combined Moorabool storages have a capacity of only 36 GL.

Notably, Barwon Water is entitled to take 134.4GL over three years from the Barwon system, but only 32.8GL from the Moorabool system or four times as much!

Sadly, returning urgently needed environmental water holding for the Barwon river received low priority compared with the Moorabool in the Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy. There is a commitment, but no pathway to return 5GL to the Barwon River by 2032.

In a Drought

During previous droughts, drinking water supplies from the Wurdee Boluc reservoir were supplemented with groundwater from the Barwon Downs borefield. However, this borefield was last used in 2016, is no longer in operation with works to decommission these bores currently underway to facilitate the recovery and ongoing protection of the Lower Tertiary, Aquifer, ground water system and the surface water features that rely on this during dry periods. On-ground decommissioning works are expected to commence in 2024/2025.

Extra capacity for Geelong will, in future, be supplied from the expanded Melbourne-Geelong  Pipeline (present capacity 16 GL/p.a.) and in a drought or emergency situation Barwon Water has capacity for an additional 5 GL/p.a. from the Anglesea borefield provided certain triggers are adhered to.

Late 2023

During a dry spell in November 2023 some Birregurra locals were bewildered to see the Wurdee Boluc channel full to the bank, even though there was little flow in the Barwon River.

Maybe, the flow in the inlet channel indicated that the diversion weirs in the Upper Barwon tributaries were operating or perhaps the flow was from West Barwon reservoir?

On checking the Barwon Water website, the Wurdee Boluc reservoir was over 80% full, whereas the West Barwon reservoir was only 40% full and the newspapers were warning us of a coming El Nino event.

Why not retain more water in the deep West Barwon reservoir when we know that Wurdee Boluc reservoir is shallow, has enormous surface area and significantly more evaporative loss than West Barwon Reservoir? West Barwon evaporation 2020/2021 was approx. 1.2GL, Wurdee Boluc was evaporation approx. 4.5GL.

The explanation

Our contact with Barwon Water explained that during the summer months, the Wurdee Boluc inlet channel is closed annually for cleaning, lining and repairs. The reservoir at Modewarre must therefore be as full as possible before summer to supply Geelong.

Furthermore, it is vital to retain headspace in West Barwon Reservoir.

This was amply demonstrated at the very end of November when Birregurra received just 11 mm of rainfall but in the same event gauges in the Otway Ranges, such as at Mt. Cowley, showed over 100 mm.

West Barwon went from 40 to 50 % full in a single rainfall event!

It is hoped that this substantial inflow will reduce the blue green algal bloom on West Barwon.

At the time of writing 12/12/2023 Barwon storage levels are as follows:

  • West Barwon 51%
  • Wurdee Boluc 86.9%.

Image: Wurdee Buloc reservoir – courtesy of Barwon Water

Following up on ‘What’s going on with our river?’ forum

By Mary Dracup – President, Gerangamete and Forrest Landcare

Just over a year ago, you were among 75 locals and river supporters who met in Forrest at the ‘What’s going on with our river?’ forum that our Landcare group organised in collaboration with water managers. The year before, the West Barwon had flooded closing the Birregurra-Forrest road for six weeks. At the forum experts from Barwon Water, Corangamite CMA and Alluvium Consulting gave detailed reports on the troubled state of the river and its future, and we asked lots of questions. You might be wondering what’s been happening since then? The answer is quite a lot!

Locals will have noticed choking Glyceria river grass has been removed around the West Barwon River flood site near Forrest. An impressive 2.3 km of fencing and 9000 plants have recently gone in to exclude stock, stabilise the banks and ultimately shade the water.

These works are the result of the 30-year Barwon Flagship Waterway Project led by the Corangamite CMA, which was launched last year and has much more activity planned. The CMA have secured contracts with 7 landholders to fund willow removal and other riparian works along 6 km of waterway on the upper Barwon over coming months.

Barwon Water will soon start removing the willows along half a kilometre of the East Barwon river downstream from the Wurdee Buloc Inlet Channel, which many of us visited as part of the Forum last year. This Stage 2 stretch will extend the 3.5 km revegetated riparian zone that we saw in its infancy and has grown remarkably.

The one-page document attached summarises these works, which will create highly positive outcomes for the health of the river as more landowners sign on to the Flagship program. For those with river frontages who would like to be involved with the project, fact sheets are available on the recently revised project requirements from the Corangamite CMA website.

Early in the new year there will be a follow-up to our 2022 forum in Forrest, showcasing some of the work that has taken place. I will send you details in a few months’ time. In the meantime, enjoy the summer.

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in which I live, the Gulidjan and Gadubanud people, and extend my respect to the traditional elders, past, present and emerging.

Image: Upper Barwon Flagship area – Courtesy Corangamite CMA

FOTB response to the Northern Western Geelong Growth Areas Draft Strategic Plan

By Trevor Hodson

On behalf of Friends of the Barwon (FOTB), I recently made a submission to the City of Greater Geelong regarding their draft Strategic Plan for the North and West Geelong Growth Areas (NWGGA). Although the Barwon River is not part of the current Geelong Strategic Assessment, a portion of the Moorabool River (a major tributary of the Barwon), is. FOTB’s main areas of concern are summarised here.

Image: Region covered in the NWGGA

FOTB Submission to Victorian Waterway Management Discussion Starter

By Lach Gordon

The existing Victorian Waterway Management Strategy was released in 2013, providing a policy framework for managing the health of Victoria’s rivers, wetlands, estuaries and floodplains over an 8-year period. A new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy is currently being prepared by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

FOTB recently reviewed DEECA’s  Victorian Waterway Management Strategy Discussion Starter, identifying our concerns around issues such as the inadequacy of environmental flows in the Barwon Basin, and posed some key questions for the Strategy Development Team as follows:

Does the Strategy aim to set bold aspirational targets to:

  • Restore flows in over extracted rivers?
  • Account for system resilience and adaption for climate change?
  • Recover from historic damage done, (such as removal of concrete in channelised creeks, drainage schemes)?
  • Prevent pollutants entering waterways (rivers are not drains)?
  • Monitor stream condition including flows, water quality parameters, micro and macro invertebrates, plant, fish and bird life?
  • Provide finance for regular monitoring, surveillance and compliance of all private sources of water extraction including farm dams, waterways and groundwater?
  • Accelerate riparian restoration with fenced wide buffer zones?
  • Recognise that healthy, connected waterways are critical enablers of functional landscape ecology?
  • Strengthen planning provisions to prevent agricultural and housing developments adversely impacting waterways? 
  • Develop a genuine partnership between government agencies DEECA, SRW, CMA’s, EPA, Barwon Water etc. and the community represented by Landcare groups, Riverkeepers and voluntary organisations such as FOTB? 

To read FOTB’s whole submission, continue reading here……..

Image: Barwon River, Geelong – Courtesy DEECA

EPA water quality monitors on the Barwon River and Thompsons Creek

By Mark Palmer – A / Team Leader, Environment Protection, South West Region, EPA.


FOTB were recently notified that officers from the EPA Victoria South West region and water science teams will soon deploy a small number of temporary water quality devices into locations at two sites :

The units, or “sondes”, are self-contained and solar powered and will feed live data back to EPA water quality officers. They will have signage to indicate their purpose to the public.

The purpose of the implementation is to get a proactive, longer-term snapshot of water quality trends in these 2 important local waterways where historical pollution events have occurred. The sondes measure physical parameters such as temperature, salinity, turbidity and pH.

Image: Courtesy Corangamite Shire

The Platypus Guardian

Platypus crusader and Hobart resident, Peter Walsh, reveals the secretive life of a female platypus and the threats she faces trying to survive in the increasingly depleted habitat of Hobart’s waterways.

This fantastic documentary was filmed over 3 years and was first screened on ABC TV 6 months ago and can be viewed at The Platypus Guardian : ABC iview

Image: from the Platypus guardian – Courtesy ABC

Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut “Places of Many Stories” Masterplan

A draft masterplan has been developed for the lower Moorabool and lower Barwon River corridors stretching from near Meredith in the north, through Geelong and to the estuary at Barwon Heads (see map below). The objective of the masterplan is to connect people to the lower Moorabool and lower Barwon River corridor by balancing public access, recreation, economic opportunities and education while enhancing the area’s unique cultural and environmental values.

This project’s name, Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut, was provided by Wadawurrung Traditional Owners and translates to “places of many stories.”

The draft masterplan is available via https://engage.vic.gov.au/kitjarra-dja-bul-bullarto-langi-ut-masterplan. Although consultation closed 14 August 2023, there may still be another round of consultation in due course.

Image: Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut Masterplan Study Area – Courtesy Corangamite CMA

Ongoing opportunities to get more involved with Friends of the Barwon

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.

Membership Renewal Reminder

Members are reminded that membership renewal is upon us. The membership year begins on 1st July so subscriptions for 2023 – 2024 are now due. You can become a FOTB member via one of the following membership options:

  • Membership – $10.00 per person and voting rights at meetings
  • Associate Membership –
  • Group Member – for not-for-profit groups aligned with aims of the Association – Annual fee of $50 with up to five nominated individuals accorded voting rights at meetings.
  • Corporate Member – to allow for profit organisations that support the aims of the Association – Annual fee of $100 but no voting rights.
  • Affiliate Member – for Friends groups and similar working in Barwon catchment to share logos and resources – to be decided by the Committee on receipt of a request from the group wishing to affiliate – No annual fee or voting rights.
  • Corporate or Agency Sponsor – To allow for sponsorship of a specific event or work of the association – to be determined by Committee on application.

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.

FOTB Contacts

Chair:                   Trevor Hodson, E: trevor.hodson@friendsofthebarwon.org.au

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

Protecting the Barwon – Five years of work undertaken by the FOTB

Protecting the Barwon – Five years of work undertaken by the FOTB

The Friends of the Barwon was formally launched in October 2018 at the Provenance Winery. It was proposed in 2017 at a CCMA workshop when a member of the Upper Barwon Landcare Network raised concerns about a series of low or no flow events in the Barwon around Winchelsea and the lack of communication between agencies or groups caring for the river. Coincidentally a walk was undertaken by a group of Landcarers in stages over three years (2014, 2015 and 2016) from the origin of the Barwon at Forrest to the mouth of the Barwon at Barwon Heads.  A book cataloguing the walk – “From Source to Sea” followed and described the adventure. The book revealed much about the state of the Barwon. The hidden secret gems and the areas where man-made intrusions laid waste to the wondrous beauty of the river. In 2016 there was a major fish kill in the Barwon as the result of acidic inflows from Boundary Creek. Whilst residents of Geelong see a small part of the Barwon, it is not the whole picture. It was realised there needed to be a group that had as its primary intention the improvement of the whole Barwon catchment. So began our journey.

The Barwon Catchment is large and includes the Barwon (Barwon and Yarrowie/Leigh Rivers) and the Moorabool catchment (Moorabool River). It extends from the Otways to Geelong and Barwon Heads. To the north it reaches as far as Ballarat. Much of the catchment has been significantly modified by settlement. Prior to settlement it was the home of the Wadawurrung and to the west the Eastern Maar. To the indigenous population, the rivers meant life and were revered. Wadawurrung creation stories centre around Lal Lal, the home of Bunjil, the Wedge-tailed Eagle and Lake Connewarre, the home of Connewarra, the Black Swan. The connectivity of the river between Lal Lal and Lake Connewarre is an overriding issue in their culture and is a factor in the removal of the spans of the Ovoid Aqueduct to restore that connectivity.

We put great store in being knowledge -based and hopefully will lead the community to a better understanding of the threats to our rivers and how we can address them by working with agencies like the CCMA and utilities like Barwon Water and contributing to the debate about where our water will come from in the future.

We want “a healthy, flowing and life sustaining Barwon River”. That is our goal and obligation to future generations. The population in Geelong accounts for three-quarters of the catchment population. Currently 80% of Geelong’s water is supplied from the West Barwon Reservoir via the treatment at Wurdibuloc. We know from multiple studies that we can no longer rely on reservoirs to supply all our water needs as we are entering a period where rainfall annually since the Millenium Drought has fallen by about 20% and this consequentially had led to much reduced run off of water into our major catchments and streams. As a group we do not undertake work on ground, preferring to make changes within the government to implement measures that will protect and improve our waterways.

Prior to FOTB’s launch, our steering committees’ first major effort, in conjunction with Environmental Justice Australia, was to write a submission to the Barwon Ministerial Advisory Committee entitled “Protecting and restoring the rivers of the Barwon (Barra Wallee Yalluk) system”. We asked for:

  • the restoration of environmental flows in our rivers,
  • for the Barwon to be granted “personhood” and to be regarded as a living entity with protections like those afforded to the Yarra and streams in parts of New Zealand,
  • for development along the river corridor to be appropriate, whether it be in rural or urban areas, for the restoration or enhancement of riparian corridors,
  • for the exclusion of stock from our waterways,
  • the control of pests, either floral, like blackberries or faunal like rabbits, foxes and feral cats that have a devastating impact on our biodiversity.

Our concerns overlapped with those of the traditional owners, the Wadawurrung, who say that a healthy river means healthy country.

Since then, we have been involved in many submissions to Councils in the catchment – Golden Plains, Surf Coast, Colac Otway and City of Greater Geelong. Some have been for These include planning issues like the Inverleigh Structure Plan where we encountered the way developers use the planning process to achieve their ends by crushing concerned citizens with a phalanx of Senior and Junior Council, using an army of expert witnesses that dismiss the lived experience of local residents who, when it comes to it, know what really happens in times of flooding or the impact of poorly managed stormwater. The likely impact of such developments will no doubt alter the character off rural living zones with more intense development and decreasing biodiversity.

A chronology of submissions would follow with our objection to a 40,000 head sheep dairy at Murnong Farm on the outskirts of Inverleigh. Our concerns related to the proponents wishing to access an allocation of 100 ML annually via a sleeper licence from the Barwon as well as the risk of runoff of nutrients into the river as many tonnes of composted material, a by-product of the dairy, were to be spread on paddocks on the same property. Local landowners indicated that in high rainfall events (20 – 40 ml per day) this would result in water flowing from the property across the Inverleigh-Winchelsea Road onto neighbouring properties and then into the Barwon, adding an unacceptable nutrient load to the river, and if allowed would add to the frequency of blue-green algal outbreaks downstream in Geelong.

Another concern was a motor cycle training complex at Fyansford which was complicated by the developer doing extensive earthworks in the riparian zone prior to their application being heard at CoGG. An application was submitted to Council but was not allowed. An appeal to VCAT was pursued by the developer but withdrawn after VCAT indicated as a preliminary a Cultural Heritage Plan was required. The resolution of this situation is still in the hands of CoGG, the CCMA and various other bodies. We are hopeful the restoration of the site will commence soon. It is noted the area is now part of the NWGGA (Northern and Western Geelong Growth Area) and much of the site, being on flood plain will not be developed for housing but will be set aside for greenspace.

Prior to the last State election, we wrote to all candidates to familiarise them with our concerns for the river. The feedback was gratifying and has helped to foster our relationships with sitting members in the catchment. One outcome perhaps related to this contact was the introduction into planning controls across the state of a requirements for planning applications involving waterways to include reference to Significant Landscape Overlays to protect our rivers being subject to inappropriate development especially on floodplains and areas of natural beauty. Issues to be considered in the overlay would be the siting and design of buildings and fences, the removal of vegetation and undertaking earthworks. This was the result of speaking with the ALP candidate for Polwarth, Hutch Hussein, who then raised our concerns directly with Minister for the Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio.

We were concerned when the Government was going to allow access to Crown leases on river fronts for camping in response to pressure from the fishing lobby. Originally this was a matter to allow access to Crown leases on the Murray, Broken and Goulburn rivers but in the final draft all Victorian rivers were included. Changes were made in the access conditions. Our voice added to the concerns of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation.

We have worked with EnviroDNA to map parts of the Barwon for the presence of platypus and these observations have added to the Great Australian Platypus Survey. Fortunately, platypus populations were found throughout the Barwon catchment but they remain vulnerable.

We have supported the Friends of the Yarrowee, after a developer cleared a large area of land on a hillside for housing without taking adequate steps to stop the flow of silted runoff into the river. Fortunately, the EPA have responded and are taking measures to ensure the developer cleans up the siltation in the river.

One of the major efforts has been responding to the Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy. To this end Lach Gordon and Andrew Kelly (the Yarra River Keeper) initiated the Concerned Waterways Alliance to bring the attention to policy makers of the need for all Victorian rivers to be considered to ensure they have adequate environmental flows. It was also noted that in developing the strategy there had been no consultation with the general community apart from members of the Indigenous community. Incremental increases in allocations have been made but they are far from enough. Currently in the Barwon the deficit in annual environmental flows is 29 GL (gigalitres). The Barwon currently receives 1 GL for environmental flows and over the next decade will receive an additional 5 GL. Hardly enough to sustain the health of the river at a time when it is forecast there will be reduced rainfall and a warmer climate. The Barwon is not alone in this – the Moorabool has an increased allocation over the next decade to ensure connectivity throughout the length of the river, but it is facing significant challenges as evidenced by the recent work of People for a Living Moorabool highlighting the impact of unlicenced farm dams on flows into the river. A welcome change has been the recent allocation to Southern Rural Water of $9M to police unlicenced dams.

More recently we have seen the activation of the Lough Calvert Drainage Scheme as a result of rising water levels in Lake Colac causing flooding on the margins of the lake. The drain is opened when a certain level is reached in the lake. There is also a stipulation that water can only be released if salinity levels measured at Winchelsea are not exceeded. The water is discharged by a series of drains that flow from Lake Colac via Lough Calvert to the Birregurra Creek and then to the Barwon. The concern is that water coming from the lake is quite saline, about 4000 ECU and rich in nutrients. The last time the scheme operated it was estimated over 20,000 tonnes of “salt” was delivered to the Barwon with an impact on the in-stream biodiversity beyond Winchelsea. Flows of about 40 ML/day have resulted but with the recent drier weather it is likely discharges will soon cease and any threat to the Barwon will cease.

In the search for solutions to this problem of decreasing natural water resources and the impact on biodiversity we must find other solutions. At present flows in the Yarrowee are sustained by the discharge of Class C from the South Ballarat waste water treatment plant. Barwon Water treats a relatively small portion of its waste water to Class A but even then, it cannot by law be used for drinking. In fact, the government in the SWS specifically ruled out any consideration of using recycled water for drinking, preferring instead to look to increasing the capacity of the desal plant at Wonthaggi by 50 GL annually. They have also shadowed a desal plant on the Bellarine rather than investing in making a truly circular water economy. So called manufactured water from Wonthaggi currently supplies about a third of Melbourne’s drinking water and is being used in part by Geelong residents via the Melbourne-Geelong Pipeline. Waste water from treatment plants is currently discharged either to ocean outfalls or into rivers. Only 20% of waste water is recycled. The Eastern Treatment Plant at Cranbourne discharges about 130 GL of Class A water to sea or about 20% of Melbourne’s drinking needs. After treatment there is still the problem of legacy chemicals such as PFAS and a long list of pharmaceuticals in the biosludge. Presently this is dried and used in agriculture.  These can be removed and not returned to the environment if the biosludge is heat-treated to produce biochar. The technology exists but the government lacks the will to pursue it.

What do we want to follow up with in the next few years? We want to see a truly circular economy for water. We want to see integrated water management as the corner stone for all new developments. We know there are gains to be made with water efficiency measures. We need to look at how we manage stormwater and do not repeat the mistakes made at Torquay leading to the degradation of the Karaaf wetlands, where the lowered salinity levels from the influx of storm water is leading to dieback of flora in these saltmarshes. We need to press the government to lift the restriction on the uses of recycled water. We want our rivers to become living entities where people and nature can thrive – to be there for future generations.

FOTB Newsletter – August 2023

FOTB Newsletter – August 2023

Content:

Chair’s Message

Essential Services Commission Pricing Review

Background to Recent Pollution Events on the Yarrowee River

Water Releases Through the Lough Calvert Drainage Scheme

Update on the Anglesea Borefield

Concerning Findings about Suspected Unlicensed Dams in the Moorabool Catchment

Update on unlicensed Dams: Questions in Parliament

Draft Biodiversity Plan for NWGGA – Open for Feedback

Your Waterways – Your Say 

The Draft Masterplan for the Moorabool River Reserve in Batesford Open for Comment

Lake Connewarre Wetlands Restoration Events

BCN Ramsar Education Kit

Barwon Water – Seek Customer Representatives

Opportunities to get more involved with Friends of the Barwon

Membership Renewal Reminder

FOTB Contacts

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters

Chair’s Message

By Trevor Hodson

Issues, that directly or indirectly have the potential to negatively impact on the Barwon River and its tributaries, continue to arise and FOTB are working to achieve the best possible outcomes for the long-term health of our rivers and catchment. Our approach has involved face to face meetings, briefings, correspondence, representation on relevant committees and awareness raising amongst our members and other relevant stakeholders.  My summary below is a brief update on matters that FOTB have been actively involved since our last newsletter:

  • Essential Services Commissioner to extend monitoring and compliance funding to Southern Rural Water– see article below and extended FOTB article on the ESC review outcomes.
  • Yarrowee River – see article below and FOTB article on the Yarrowee River.
  • Lough Calvert Diversion Channel – see article below and FOTB article on Water Releases through the Lough Calvert Drainage Scheme.
  • The Anglesea Borefield – see article below and FOTB article on Update on the Anglesea Borefield
  • Boating on the Barwon – The CCMA will shortly be releasing a paper on proposed changes to Boating Regulations in the Barwon. This affects the lower Barwon particularly after the spans of the Ovoid Aqueduct are removed to restore the continuity of the river to power boats and canoes. We should argue for speed restrictions in the area known as the ‘Place of the Brolga’ to ensure damage is not caused to the banks by wash from speedboats associated with the various ski clubs hoping to gain access to longer stretches of the river.
  • The CCMA’s Place of Many Stories Masterplan project, being run in conjunction with the Wadawurrung, has been released for comment via Engage Victoria. Contributions to be received by 14th August. A number of drop-in sessions are planned. One of the issues is that none of the possible projects have funding and much of the emphasis is on increasing access to the river without consideration for the river’s health. I was interviewed by the Geelong Independent and expressed FOTB’s concerns.
  • Fyansford Motorcycle Facility – There is still no news about the plan for the rehabilitation of the site at Fyansford for the Motorcycle Facility. According to last correspondence with City of Greater Geelong, the plan should have been ready by June 2023.
  • Teesdale Subdivisions – We have been notified that the Golden Plains Shire has refused the application for the subdivision at 40 River Drive Teesdale. This subdivision has potential to impact adversely on Native Hut Creek. The developer is appealing the decision at VCAT. We plan to oppose the development at the VCAT hearing, set for February 2024. We have also been alerted to another potential subdivision at 73 River Drive.
  • Bendigo Bank grant – FOTB were successful in our application to purchase a printer thanks to the local Winchelsea branch of the Bendigo Bank’s 20th Birthday celebrations.
  • Significant Landscape Overlays – I met with Michaela Settle MP in response to our pre-election mail out about gazetted changes to the Significant Landscape Overlays in the Planning Schedules
  • Geelong Sustainability – We have endorsed a letter drafted by Geelong Sustainability encouraging the City of Greater Geelong to take greater action on climate change.
  • New CEO for Barwon Water – Shaun Cummings is Barwon Water’s new CEO replacing Tracey Slatter who has taken up the position of CEO at the Transport Accident Commission.

We are also reminding our members (and members-to-be) that subscriptions fees are again due as we work towards membership renewals falling due on at the beginning of the financial year. Happy reading!

Essential Services Commission Pricing Review

The Concerned Waterways Alliance (CWA) attended two ESC meetings in May with Lach Gordon representing Friends of the Barwon. Barwon Water received only very minor reductions of funding for some programs. There was a reduction of $2 million for the upgrade of the Melbourne Geelong pipeline, but Barwon Water were generally satisfied with the ESC determination and should be able to cover any shortfalls. It seems that their submission was highly regarded and their reputation as the premier Victorian Water Corporation has served them well.

The ESC budget reduced Southern Rural Waters operating budget by $6.6 million per annum. The CWA argued as a result of the work undertaken by PALM on the impact of farm dams on the Moorabool that more money should be allocated to SRW for compliance enforcement, not less, to improve performance in these areas. This was achieved – an extra $9.9 million for SRW for compliance.

Read on ….

Photo: Courtesy ESC

Background to Recent Pollution Events on the Yarrowee River

Our attention was brought to the pollution in the Yarrowee following land clearing for a housing development. Thankfully the EPA is taking the developer to task and has various court orders seeking to minimise the pollution occurring from runoff and will require the developer to rehabilitate the stream when the development is completed. A local resident was threatened with legal action and a GoFundMe account has been set up to defray his legal costs. FOTB contributed $150 to this fund.

Read on …..

Photo: Yarrowee creek from George Alexopoulos

Water Releases Through the Lough Calvert Drainage Scheme

Given the highwater levels recorded in Lake Colac, the CCMA has given notice that the drainage system will be activated on 21st July to reduce the risk of flooding private land. The rules of operation are determined by the water level in Lake Colac and the salinity of the Barwon at Winchelsea.  A briefing was arranged with the CCMA. The indication is that no more than 50 ML will be released per day and this should reduce the risk of erosion in the Birregurra Creek. When the last releases occurred in the 1990’s there were significant impacts on biodiversity in the Barwon due to increased salinity levels. Hopefully this will not be a result of this release and the situation will be monitored. If accepted salinity levels in the Barwon are exceeded the release will stop.

Read on ….

Photo: Fishing on Lake Colac; Courtesy OtwayBiz

Update on the Anglesea Borefield

Friends of the Barwon Committee members were recently briefed, by both Barwon Water and the Friends of the Anglesea River, about issues affecting the Anglesea River and its estuary. In recent times the Anglesea River has experienced prolonged periods with low pH levels, to the detriment of the biodiversity in the waterway. Although the exact cause of this has not been fully settled, the Friends of the Anglesea River suggest a potential cause is an 80% – 90% reduction in flow in Salt Creek over the last 60 years. They claim the reduced flow is evidence of an unacknowledged vertical leakage from the perched aquifer above a cone of depression which underlies the Alcoa mine after 46 years of dewatering pumping.

Read on …

Photo: Water Testing on Anglesea River. Courtesy Estuary Watch

Concerning Findings about Suspected Unlicensed Dams in the Moorabool Catchment

recent study of private dams in the Moorabool Catchment, undertaken by People for A Living Moorabool (PALM), has been followed up by the ABC in their report ‘Suspected unlicensed dams multiplying across stressed river system reveal holes in Victoria’s water compliance’. The ABC article and video outlines how supporters of PALM, including downstream stream irrigators and farmers, reliant on the Moorabool River for stock and domestic needs, had expressed concerns that large private dams were being developed in the upper catchment.

Using Google Earth, PALM volunteers looked at dam storages across the catchment. With Google Earth’s capacity to compare historical satellite imagery, the volunteers were able to identify new and enlarged private dams that had been developed, particularly over the last decade. The group were then able to approximate dam volumes based on a recognised formula for Victorian dams.

Read on….

Photo: ABC News

Update on unlicensed Dams: Questions in Parliament

On the 21st of June Dr. Sarah Mansfield, member of the Victorian Legislative Council representing the Western Region, asked the following questions without notice to Water Minister Harriet Shing:

My question is for the Minister for Water. The ABC recently revealed that 200 new private dams have been constructed along the Moorabool River catchment since 2012. Many appear to be unlicensed, and the water regulator, Southern Rural Water, has failed to enforce the law. In fact, last year Southern Rural Water made not a single prosecution. The proliferation of unregulated dams poses a significant risk to essential inflows to the Moorabool, which is already one of the most flow-stressed systems in the state. Will the government place an immediate moratorium on the construction of new private dams within the Moorabool catchment whilst this issue is being investigated?

Read on ….

Draft Biodiversity Plan for NWGGA – Open for Feedback

The draft Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Plan for the Northern and Western Geelong Growth Areas (NWGGA) has recently been released. Public exhibition of the draft EPBC Plan, Strategic Assessment Report and associated implementation documents will run until Monday 25 September 2023.

During this time, land owners, community members and other stakeholders are encouraged to give feedback on the draft biodiversity strategic assessment for the NWGGA, or attend one of a number of workshops or drop-in sessions. The draft EPBC Plan follows release of the results of its community consultation which is available on the FOTB website.

Photo: Striped Legless Lizard. Courtesy: Melbourne Museum

Your Waterways – Your Say

The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action is developing a new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy. It will guide how we manage Victorian waterways into the future.

They want to hear from you about how to improve our waterways for things that matter most to you.

They invite early feedback on a discussion starter to help shape the development of the new draft Strategy. The final Strategy is expected to be released in 2025.

DEECA will work with key stakeholders throughout the project on development of the new Strategy. The next round of formal public consultation will take place when the draft Strategy is released for public comment, expected in 2024.

The purpose of this consultation is to:

  • Detail why a new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy is needed.
  • Invite input into a new vision for the future of our waterways, which will help us develop the new Strategy.
  • Invite early feedback on what the new Strategy needs to achieve.

Read the discussion starter, provide a response to the short survey or lodge a submission.  To find out more, join us at one of our community conversation sessions. To contribute visit Engage Victoria

The Draft Masterplan for the Moorabool River Reserve in Batesford Open for Comment

The Draft Masterplan for the Moorabool River Reserve in Batesford is now open for public consultation until the 16th of August, 2023. Council is seeking feedback on the Draft Masterplan from the Batesford community to ensure that the plan meets the needs and aspirations of the community for the reserve. The Draft Masterplan can be found here 

Feedback can be provided via Councils webpage at goldenplains.vic.gov.au/consultations

Lake Connewarre Wetlands Restoration Events

Join Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) on 16th August for a day of wetland rehabilitation at Murtnaghurt Lagoon, adjoining Lake Connewarre. This culturally significant area for Wadawurrung Traditional Owners provides important feeding and breeding habitat for native fish and a number of wetland-dependent bird species, including rare and endangered flora and fauna.

Together with Parks Victoria rangers, CVA will be hosting a day of weed extraction where volunteers can actively help preserve and protect this important wetland. Followed by a morning tea and the opportunity to explore and survey the stunning flora and fauna that call this area home.

Registration essential. For more information, go to: Community Wetland Restoration Day – BCN – Community Events Portal (bgevc.com)

BCN Ramsar Education Kit

Bellarine Catchment Network (BCN) are excited to announce a brand new free Ramsar education kit for use by all.

These kits include over 20 different resources on wetlands that cover many topics including plants, animals, language, flyways, migration, as well as linking into art, creativity and puzzles. The BCN Ramsar Education Kit includes:

  • Ramsar ‘Hero posters’
  • Migratory bird ‘Connie’s’ Cards
  • Colouring in sheets (see example attached)
  • Fact Sheets (see example attached)
  • Online puzzles
  • Posters (see example attached)
  • Word Search
  • DIY puppets and bunting.

Barwon Water – Seek Customer Representatives

Barwon Water are currently recruiting for their Customer Advisory Committee, and are keen to hear from people across our region. Joining the committee provides an opportunity to inform and influence decisions, share community insights and connect with regional leaders and professionals. Their long-standing advisory committees consist of a diverse group of people to assist with our ongoing planning and projects.  For more information visit: Our Committees and Advisory Groups | Your Say Barwon Water

You can also contact the Engagement team with any queries on 1300 656 007.

Ongoing opportunities to get more involved with Friends of the Barwon

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.

Membership Renewal Reminder

Members are reminded that membership renewal is upon us. The membership year begins on 1st July so subscriptions for 2023 – 2024 are now due. You can become a FOTB member via one of the following membership options:

  • Membership – $10.00 per person and voting rights at meetings
  • Associate Membership –
  • Group Member – for not-for-profit groups aligned with aims of the Association – Annual fee of $50 with up to five nominated individuals accorded voting rights at meetings.
  • Corporate Member – to allow for profit organisations that support the aims of the Association – Annual fee of $100 but no voting rights.
  • Affiliate Member – for Friends groups and similar working in Barwon catchment to share logos and resources – to be decided by the Committee on receipt of a request from the group wishing to affiliate – No annual fee or voting rights.
  • Corporate or Agency Sponsor – To allow for sponsorship of a specific event or work of the association – to be determined by Committee on application.

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.

FOTB Contacts

Chair:                   Trevor Hodson, E: trevor.hodson@friendsofthebarwon.org.au

Deputy Chair:      Sarah Brien

Treasurer:            Hugh Stewart

Secretary:            Vacant

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

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters

FOTB Newsletter – April 2023

FOTB Newsletter – April 2023

The FOTB April 2023 Newsletter has recently been circulated to our members and can now be accessed here.  

The newsletter covers:

Chair’s Message

Summary and Minutes of our AGM – 22nd February

New Friends of the Barwon Website

Clean Ocean Foundation Webinar: Pollute or Recycle

Have your say on Murrk Ngubitj Yarram Yaluk (former Bellarine Basin)

Floods inquiry probes readiness and response

Lake Connewarre Wetlands Restoration Events

Pesticide Watch – call for Volunteers

Ramsar Wetlands Survey

Bellarine Environment Centre: Request for Assistance

Grants/Opportunities

Opportunities to get more involved with Friends of the Barwon

FOTB Contacts