Friends of the Barwon – Newsletter December 2023

Friends of the Barwon – Newsletter December 2023

Vol 15


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 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 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

Thanks for your support.

FOTB Contacts

Chair:                   Trevor Hodson, E:

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:

FOTB Website:

Image: FOTB Steering Committee

Platypus eDNA study results

Platypus eDNA study results

The recent Environmental DNA (eDNA) assessment of platypus distribution in the Middle Barwon River, incorporating grass-roots citizen science, contributed to the largest continuous survey for this iconic species in Victoria.

The findings are summarised in the report: Citizen Science: Investigating the distribution of platypuses throughout the lower Barwon River Catchment using environmental DNA which can be downloaded at: Platypus eDNA Research results