The Moorabool River is facing the very real threat of stopping flowing completely along virtually its entire length.
Earlier last month a resident on the East Moorabool River informed us that the river had ceased to flow at his property below the Bostock Reservoir. Inquiries of Barwon Water confirmed the situation letting us know that passing flows from the Bostock Reservoir had been discontinued after an extended period of no inflows. According to them this was the first time this had occurred since the Millennial Drought in 2009.
A visit to the East Moorabool River on March the 31st showed the river completely stopped at the confluence with Bungal Creek.
About a week later we received reports that flows around the quarry below Batesford had ceased resulting in significant fish and eel mortality in the two pools that quickly dry out without inflows. It is our understanding that quarry staff worked to save a number of them.
Recently flows over the Batesford Weir ceased and duckweed is once again rife.
The CCMA have informed us that there are no passing flows being released from Lal Lal Reservior due to zero inflows. The only water the river is getting from the dam is the last of the current environmental flow which was due to cease on the 12th of April.
This flow was in evidence at Sharpes road Bridge on the 3rd of April.
The CCMA are now planning to use some of next season's allocation in order to keep the river flowing for the time being. This will understandably impact on what will be available for the environment but the situation is obviously becoming serious.
This could be another rough trot for this massively over allocated river and is indicitive of the lack of resilience it has to low rainfall periods. We ask that everyone keep a watching brief on the Moorabool River particularly with regard to fish deaths or black water events.
Bruce Harwood, Mayor, City of Greater Geelong,Alice Knight, Chair, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority,Jo Plummer, Chair, Barwon Water,Lisa Neville, Victorian Water Minister,Byron Powell, Chair, Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation,Cameron Steele, Coordinator, People for a Living Moorabool and Students from Covenant College Geelong.
On Monday on the banks of the Moorabool River at Batesford near Geelong the Minister for Water, the Hon Lisa Neville MP announced more than $2.1 million waterway investment as part of The Living Moorabool project.
“The Living Moorabool project is improving and protecting the health of the river – and this is the first site being launched as part of a series of waterway projects across the state.” The investment will be delivered in partnership with Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and Barwon Water, and will improve river banks and land surrounding the river though revegetation, weed control, improved water flows and the removal of barriers to allow fish to move freely up the river.
Part of the project is a Discover the Living Moorabool access map which is a mobile-friendly website that went live Monday. The site provides locals and visitors with information to help enjoy the Moorabool River featuring practical visitor information, as well as tips on the best places to fish, learn about cultural heritage or have a BBQ. It also includes impressive drone-captured aerial imagery and details of how the community can get involved in citizen science.
“We know the Moorabool river is a significant place for visitors and locals, and we want to ensure it remains a site that the local community are connected to and can visit and enjoy.” said Minister Neville.
Speaking at the launch Cameron Steele, coordinator for People for A Living Moorabool a group that has long championed a better deal for the Moorabool River, welcomed the news.
“Given a chance this river has the capacity to really capture the imagination as it did for those of us in PALM. It vitally needs more people experiencing what it has to offer and caring about its future. For us this day is about people along with agencies and government working together for a living Moorabool.” He also reinforced the fact that the Moorabool River is arguably the most over-allocated and flow stressed in the state.
The Living Moorabool project directly responds to a community call to action for a healthier Moorabool River. Drinking water for rapidly growing cities of Ballarat and Geelong is supplied from reservoirs on the Moorabool River. The river also sustains life for some of the most endangered plant species in Australia and is a vital habitat corridor for birds, fish and platypus.
The Moorabool River is identified as a priority waterway in both the Corangamite Waterway Strategy and Water for Victoria, the Victorian Government’s water plan.
Through The Living Moorabool project Corangamite CMA will work with Barwon Water, local communities, the Traditional Owners, landholders and local government to achieve a healthier, more vibrant Moorabool River that can sustain a range of values.
Activities to be delivered through the project include river bank and instream protection, removal of fish barriers, ecological research and improved monitoring and reporting.
The Discover the Moorabool mobile-friendly website can be found here: http://www.ccmaknowledgebase.vic.gov.au/moorabool/index.php
Footage of the recent environmental release.
It was taken downstream of She Oaks Weir along the westerly run above Sharpes Crossing.
There is some weed infestation along the Eastern bank which will need attention but it is still a very pretty part of the river. The flows were certainly driving some instream activity with a platypus sighting to finish the trip.
In late June 2017 it was announced in a press release from the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee of the Victorian Parliament that there was to be an inquiry held into “The management, governance and use of environmental water”.
The committee's terms of reference are;
That the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee inquire into the Victorian Environmental Water Holder annual report 2015-16 and report, no later than June 2018, into the management, governance and use of environmental water in Victoria including, but not limited to —
the assessment of the role of environmental water management in preventing or causing ‘blackwater’ events;
how environmental water and environmental water managers interact with, and utilise, management tools such as carryover and whether the carryover of environmental water impacts on the availability of water for irrigators;
consideration of what barriers exist to the more efficient use of environmental water and how these may be addressed; and
assessment of fees and charges applied to environmental water and whether these differ from those imposed on other water users.
A reading of Hansard has revealed that the impetus for the inquiry has come from a National Party member in the north of the state where there has historically been some questions raised over the use and extent of environmental flows. We have put together summary of the exchange in Hansard on the 10th of May 2017 which can be found here. It is long but worth the read.
As a group which fought hard for environmental flows the Moorabool River PALM members are very keen to ascertain if the small gains that were acheived for the most flow-stressed river in the State are at risk.
Update August 2017
PALM has made a submission to the inquiry which can be found at the following links;
On the 29th of December 2016 a group of us met at a site on the Moorabool below Meredith to view the annual movement of hundreds of juvenile short finned eels up the river. These creatures, barely 20cm long, are finishing their several thousand kilometer journey from the Coral Sea. The peak of the migration occurs between Christmas and New year.
This beautiful section of the river with its deep pools, tumbling falls and high cliffs made for a perfect place from which to observe this remarkable event.
We were also keen to measure the depths at the site as the CCMA is currently undertaking a project identifying habitat pools and were interested in a comparison. With a rudimentary setup (boogie board, 2kg weight and 10mts of 10mm rope) we took over 20 soundings in each of the two pools. The depth in both was impressive with the lower pool measuring and astounding 8.85 meters. At this time we believe it is the deepest natural section of the river.
Our thanks go to Peter and his family for allowing us to visit this amazing section of the Moorabool River.