The Quarry

The Fyansford limestone quarry is the last large human degradation of the Moorabool River before it joins the Barwon River near Geelong.  The river was diverted twice for the quarry - first to create it 100 years ago; later to expand it.   The concrete diversion channel destroyed the original ecology and flow of that stretch of the river.

Combined with declining flows in the system, the link to the estuarine environment and the sea for important migratory species is often lost for periods vital to their longterm survival.

The Moorabool River now loses up to 10 Million litres per day in seepage due to foregone base flows and the poor condition of the older works. Much of this seepage ends up in the quarry.

Dewatering the quarry sees up to 3,500 million litres per year pumped back into the river downstream. The Victorian Government classes this as an environmental flow for what is regarded as the most flow stressed river in the state.

The quarry's pumps will be turned off in the not too distant future. The current issues already facing this reach of the river will be greatly magnified when this happens.

GEquarryQuarry with the recoursed Moorabool River passing around it. Geelong and the ringroad to the east.

 

The Diversions

1930s

The first river diversion occurred in the 1930s. The new path of the river was over a former spoil ground so a large section of it required concreting. Within a few years the concrete started to fail and water began draining from the river into the underlying spoil, much of it ending up in the quarry. Now the disrepair is so dramatic the river requires nearly 10 million litres per day of flow to make its way past this reach of the river.

overlay600Overlay of Surveyor Smythe's 1839 map showing the former course of the Moorabool River

1930recourse6001930 recourse with many of its concrete sections in disrepair.

 

The water pools in several major breaks in its bed and as they dry out large numbers of fish can be trapped and ultimately without intervention will perish. Corangamite staff and quarry staff regularly work to save trapped fish from these fast drying depressions.

 

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1980s


The second diversion occurred in the 1980s and is still mostly intact. However much of its length is of slab sided concrete construction. There is little opportunity for terrestrial fauna to access the river and little shade provided. Without flows the water becomes heated and with tepid temperatures combining with stagnate sections it becomes unconductive to native instream species. This section however does benefit from the current discharges from the quarry.

 

This section at least has the benefit of pumping volumes from the quarry as the outlet at its start.

1980s recourseGE600

^ZWhile this 1980s diversion is in reasonable repair its construction for most of its length is ill suited for access by terrestrial fauna.

 

 ^ZThe current location of the outlet pipe is at the head of this section and delivers over 3,000ML per year of water into the Moorabool River.

 

City of Greater Geelong

The City of Greater Geelong has recently undertaken a panel process to determine the manner in which housing development of the area will proceed. This included proposals for the quarry to become a showcase lake. The Panel heard from experts that seepage from the river was around 100 million litres a year. This was deemed implausable by those who know this section of the river and the CCMA commissioned a study to assess the true state of water losses.

 

The latest study

Lance Lloyd of LloydEnvironmental along with Professor Peter Delhaus, a ground water expert from Federation University completed the study in mid 2020. It found losses experienced by the Moorabool River through the lowering of the water table and seepage from its bed amounted to on average of over 5 million liters per day.

"The flow data provided demonstrates that losses in the Lower Moorabool can be expected to occur in a magnitude of approximately 3 to 20 ML/day (median of 5.14 ML/d)."

This amounts to over 1800 million litres per year. In comparison the entire environmental flow allocated from the Lal Lal Dam to the Moorabool River amounts to 2,500 million litres per annum.

It should be noted this figure is 15 times the rate presented by expert witnesses to the City of Greater Geelong Panel Hearing who stated a figure from a study by Nolan of 102 million litres per year.

They also came to the conclusion that even when the quarry finally fills it remains unlikely that base flows into the Moorabool River will return to normal or that it will stop losing water.

The study summary can be found here; https://ccma.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Fact-Sheet-Lower-Moorabool-River-Final-3-July-2020_CCM_Sharon-1.pdf

Ref: Lloyd, L.N., Clarke, S. and Dahlhaus, P. 2020. Final Report of the Lower Moorabool River Groundwater and FLOWS Project (CCMA Project No. 1731). LE report to Corangamite CMA. Lloyd Environmental, Somers, Victoria.

 

The Future

People for A Living Moorabool are calling on the State Government, quarry operators, water authorities, the EPA, Councils and developers to do the following:

1.  To agree to a management plan which puts the interests of the Moorabool River at the forefront of any future use of the site.

2. To ensure that the 1930s diversion is replaced with an impervious structure capable of preventing further losses of river flows to the underlying substrates.

3. That a modified pumping regime continue after the quarry is decommissioned designed to match the current losses from the river.

4. That no net water from the Moorabool River, the most flow stressed in Victoria, be used to fill the quarry.

5. That the outlet of the pumped water from the quarry be moved from its current position to a site upstream of the first diversion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

groupphotoOn the 17th of December 2019 PALM members had the pleasure of hosting Libby Coker MP for a tour of a couple of spots on the Moorabool River.

Despite still recovering from illness Libby was prepared to scramble through some of the less accessible areas to at least get some feel for the river and the beauty it still holds.

Therefore a big thank you to both Libby and Leigh for joining us to hear about the issues impacting arguably the State's most flow-stressed river the Moorabool. Unfortunately even with the modest environmental flows that were secured over a decade ago this is still a dying system.

Over allocation and extraction has seen the original 90ML per day that this river would have enjoyed at Batesford near its confluence with the Barwon had been reduced to just 10ML, well before taking into account the further reducing flows from climate change. It will take a big effort from all of us to ensure this river has more water left in it by water authorities and others in order to give it some prospects of survival.

15 years ago the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy flagged an 2,000ML for the Moorabool when Geelong moved to treating recycled water for potable use. For this river that can not happen soon enough and PALM is grateful for Libby's support in helping to make this happen. Hopefully our state government takes note.

The Colac Herald presented news this week of plans to pipe waste water from Black Rock Treatment Plant to refurnish 'at risk' lakes like Lake Colac.
https://colacherald.com.au/2019/07/lake-colac-pipe-plan-gets-council-backing/

At first glance this would seem like a worthy project, recycled water currently going into the ocean being put to better use.

However there are other water bodies at arguably far greater risk. The Moorabool River is recognised as the most flow stressed river in the state and the Barwon river is fast approaching a similar condition, ceasing to flow for several months this season. Both heavily impacted by over allocation of their water resources. Urban water authorities, bore field extractions, irrigators, and farm dams all play a part while climate change is playing an increasing role. These rivers already have a call on water freed up when recycled water is used to supplement drinking water supplies in the not too distant future.

The Victorian Government Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy has dictated the region's water policy for the last 15 years. It delivered small environmental allocations to both the Moorabool and Barwon rivers but recognised far more needed to be done. In spelling out future options “the substitution of potable water with treated recycled water” in Geelong and Ballarat was flagged to deliver an extra 6,500ML to the Moorabool River.It gave hope to people who had seen the Moorabool River increasingly struggling to survive year in year out.
https://www.water.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/63261/Chapter4.pdf

Barwon Water is also seemingly committed to this path declaring one of their measures of success in 2023 to be; “We have engaged deeply with our customers and have general acceptance on the appropriateness of drinking high quality recycled water for long-term water supply opportunities (beyond 2030).”
https://www.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/19638/Strategy-2030.pdf

If we as a country are intent on maintaining high levels of immigration to support our economy then it is obvious that drinking water will need to be supplemented by suitably treated recycled water. Many other countries around the world use this resource as a matter of course.

Extracting more from highly stressed waterways is not an option. Recycled water should be seen as a precious resource, requiring less energy to bring to drinking water standards than desalination, and the bulk of it should be retained as a future resource to sustain our growing towns and cities.

This will hopefully allow us to ease flow stress on some of the most over allocated rivers in the region. After all it is they which have historically supplied the majority of our drinking water. Assisting to rescue rivers like the Moorabool from an otherwise extremely bleak future needs to be the first port of call in any decisions on the potential uses of recycled water.

The Minister for Water Lisa Neville has announced a Ministerial Advisory Committee for the area including the Moorabool River. Having a direct avenue to the minister this committee will serve to as a conduit for bringing issues to the minister.

PALM is still to learn of the terms of reference for the committee or the makeup of its members. It's chair Chrisine Forster has been in an oversight position for the recent review of the Southern Region Sustainable Water Strategy and was present when PALM made submissions to DELWP for the review.

 

Press release 10 October 2018

The Andrews Labor Government has announced a new body to protect and improve the Barwon River.

Minister for Water and Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville joined Member for Geelong Christine Couzens today at the South Geelong Rowing Precinct to announce the new Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) for the Barwon, Moorabool and associated waterways.

The MAC will develop recommendations for the Minister for Water and Minister for Planning in 12 months to develop a community vision for the river, associated waterways and their landscapes – building on recent community engagement and focusing Aboriginal cultural heritage and recreation, among other priorities.

The MAC will be led by independent Chair, Christine Forster – who has significant experience in natural resource management – to oversee governance and engagement processes that support the plan over the next 18 months.

In addition, the Labor Government will improve visitor facilities and recreational access to the iconic Barwon River, as part of a new initiative to improve the health of the River.

In partnership with the Victorian Fisheries Authority and the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, $480,000 will fund the building of all-ability platforms for fishing, paddling, pet-swimming and small boat access through various sites of the Geelong section of Barwon River.

The River was selected as one of nine priority areas receiving funding as part of the Labor Government’s $3.2 million Boosting Recreational Water Use Initiative to protect and enhance waterways across Victoria.

The Barwon MAC process announced today mirrors the announcement made in August to develop a Waterways of the West Action Plan for the urban rivers in the west of Melbourne.

The Labor Government’s Water for Victoria policy recognises the connection that communities, Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal Victorians have to waterways and their landscapes.

The project will also improve fishing access to the Barwon River as part of the Labor Government’s Target One Million commitment to get more people fishing, more often.

More information about the Ministerial Advisory Committee and Barwon River Action Plan is available at: water.vic.gov.au.

gathering

In early May 2019 members of the Living Moorabool Project on which PALM sits were invited to join members of the Wadawurrung for a cultural day at a beautiful spot downstream of the Batesford Bridge.

After an extended dry period it seems the river was determined to rise to the occasion and some welcome rain in the previous week saw it presenting with a small but steady flow.

During a Welcome to Country those attending, who had been earlier asked to bring water from creek or river which was special to them, were asked to pour a little of it into a communal bowl into which gumleaves were dipped and then placed on the smoking fire. It was a moving tribute to people's connection to thier local rivers.

Members of the Wadawurrung had also woven an eel trap which was placed in the Moorabool River and an eel was presented for people to examine much to the delight of the children in attendance.

eel trap600

It was a great day that was in part a celebration of the fact the Wadawurrung had managed, through negotiations with the Environmental Water Holder, the CCMA and Central Highlands Water, to secure 500ML of additional environmental water for the lower Moorabool for this year.

While PALM is on record as being against inter-basin transfers in principle we feel this is a huge leap forward in involving traditional owners in decisions around water management and may perhaps soon see them securing a permanent allocation for cultural use on the Moorabool River.

As longterm advocates for the Moorabool River it is extremely heartening to have others also speaking out so strongly for it.

We wish to thank and congratulate all those involved as it adds another important, positive chapter in the fight to bring this river back from the brink and secure its long term future.

 

 

The Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy, developed and implemented under the Bracks government, was a landmark document pivotal in securing environmental flows for rivers like the Moorabool River.

Legislation requires the strategy be reviewed every 10 years. The current review is underway and a draft report has been released. It can be found here;

https://engage.vic.gov.au/central-region-sws-review

There are public meetings scheduled through August and the two most relevant to the Moorabool River are the following:

Tuesday 7 August 2018 03:00 PM – 07:00 PM

Mechanics Institute Ballarat, 117 Sturt St, Ballarat

Tuesday 14 August 2018 03:00 PM – 07:00 PM

Geelong Wurdi Youang Room North Level 5, in the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, 51 Malop St, Geelong

 

The final day for submissions is the 27th August 2018.

The original strategy chapters can be accessed by clicking on the links below;

 

Chapter 4 is the most directly addressing the Moorabool River in the original.

 

Submission from People for A Living Moorabool

 

Update 25th October 2018

The review is now available at;

Central Region SWS review (PDF, 3.7 MB)

Central Region SWS Feedback synthesis report with responses (PDF, 387.0 KB)

It appears the Moorabool River was the most highly represented river within the Central Region so well done to all those involved in keeping the plight of this river in front of government.

Footage of the recent environmental release moving through the Lal Lal forest.

The clear water and shallow bed in this section of the river meant sunlight reaching the extensive in-stream vegetation. Photosynthesising plants help boost oxygen levels of the release to be improved and transported to deeper pools.

 

 

The release consisted of the following amounts totaling 67 ML;

 

Release Date

Ml/day

17/01/19

5

18/01/19

4

19/01/19

4

20/01/19

4

21/01/19

4

22/01/19

5

23/01/19

5

24/01/19

5

25/01/19

4

26/01/19

4

27/01/19

4

28/01/19

4

29/01/19

5

30/01/19

5

31/01/19

5

 

While these releases are certainly making a difference to this highly stressed river there is still much work to be done to secure its future.