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.

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.

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.

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.

Batesford Thurs April 5th 2018

 

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.

Sharpes Bridge 3rd April 2018

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.

 

 

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.

The Miner News Story 29th November 2017

 

Group photo

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

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 were 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 was 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.