Water for Victoria discussion paper and what it meant for the Moorabool River
The Moorabool River has been acknowledged by successive State governments as one of the most flow stressed in Victoria. Some summers up to 90% of its flow is extracted by water authorities and irrigators. Collated figures from the latest Water Accounts report reveals the Moorabool Basin as the most over-allocated in the state.
The Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy (CRSWS) released by the Bracks Government in 2006 recognised the dire state of the Moorabool River. It found that “environmental flows would need to be enhanced by about 20,000ML to meet scientific environmental flow recommendations”.
The then government committed to providing 6000 ML of water flows by 2015, made up of 2500 ML entitlement as an Environmental Reserve from the Lal Lal Reservoir, 3000 ML from the quarry at Fyansford and 500 ML through a buy-back scheme.
Although relatively small it wass the Environmental Reserve in Lal Lal that was the most vital to the health of the Moorabool River. Managed on behalf of the Environmental Water Holder by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) it has often been piggybacked on releases by Barwon Water which has meant flows to the lower sections of the Moorabool.
The Barwon Water Bulk Entitlement from Lal Lal is up to 17,775ML per 3 year period. It flows from the Lal Lal Reservoir down 30kms of river to the authority's off-take at She Oaks. It is vital in its own right to the ecosystems along this high value section of the river but it also serves to carry Environmental Reserve releases so they can continue past the She Oaks Weir and impact the 70 kms of river to the confluence with the Barwon River.
The Water for Victoria Discussion Paper issued by the current state government talked about increasing environmental flows in the Moorabool River but Minister Lisa Neville had also flagged a transfer of Geelong's allocation in Lal Lal to Ballarat.
"Ballarat and Geelong currently both have access to water in Lal Lal Reservoir. Geelong has an interconnecter which means that city will be able to access water form Melbourne’s water pool, which could allow Ballarat to access more water in the Lal Lal Reservoir as Geelong will be compensated through its interconnector with water from Melbourne’s system."
It was hard to see how this would be anything other than a disaster for the lower sections of the Moorabool since it must, on the face of it, mean less flow in a river that is barely being kept alive. It would have dramatically lessen the effectiveness of any environmental releases.
This became a huge level of concern both for those who live along the river and others who also deeply care for its future.
An alliance of Landcare and community groups joined to lobby for the Moorabool River. In order to inform the community at large about the possible impacts of the Water Plan they organised an information night in Meredith Hall on Tuesday the 12th of April 2016. It attracted over 100 people wanting more information about proposed changes flagged in the Water Plan. The presenters were Saul Vermeeren from the CCMA, Cameron Steele from People for A living Morrabool whose presentation can be accessed here, and Angus Ramsey from Southern Rural Water.
Page 45 of the Water for Victoria Discussion Paper speaks of;
"reconfirming the environmental water recovery targets in the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy and identifying options to meet existing shortfalls with local communities and stakeholders in the Moorabool, Barwon, Werribee and Maribyrnong Rivers"
The future recovery targets for the Moorabool River had been set out on page 74 of the 2006 CRSW Stategy. They detailed 14,000ML of water that could be left in the river given alternative supplies for Ballarat and Geelong. Both cities now have access to other sources of water. It was time to make sure that these augmentations could enable stress to have been taken off our highly over-allocated Moorabool River.
However after meeting with DELWP officials we learnt that despite the wording these are not on the table as options that are going to be included in the Water Plan. In our view this is completely unacceptable. A lot of time and effort was put in to formulating a path that would see more water being rightly left in this highly stress river. Abandoning these recovery targets is wrong.
People were invited to make a submission to the Water for Victoria discussion paper as well as writing to their local member or the Minister herself.
Water Plan Project Team
Water and Catchments Group
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
Level 10, 8 Nicholson St
East Melbourne 3002
Hon Lisa Neville
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water
Level 17, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne, VIC 3002
(03) 9637 9654
Further resources were provided for submissions
Table of allocations in the major River Basins in Victoria
Figures taken from the Victoria Water Accounts 2013-14 which clearly show why the Moorabool Basin is the most overallocated in the state.
Ballarat and region’s water future
Selected quotes from an inititive of the previous Victorian government showing recognition of the state of the Moorabool River and a willingness to explore ways of leaving more water in it.
Moorabool River Environmental Water Management Plan Draft Version 2.3
Sections of the plan detailing scientifically validated environmental water requirements for the Moorabool River.
Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy - Chapter 4
Chapter 4 of the CRSWS which details future water recovery options for the Moorabool River
Victorian Water Accounts 2013–2014
Link to the full document
A number of community groups, landcare organisations and individuals took the time to write submissions and put the case for the Moorabool. We now await the final Water Plan to see how this government will respond to the very dire condition of this magnificent river.
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