Barwon Downs borefield licence renewal

The Barwon Downs borefield is located in the foothills of the Otway Ranges approximately 70 kilometres south west of Geelong and 30 kilometres south east of Colac.

The borefield has been a crucial supply source for Geelong, the Surf Coast, Bellarine Peninsula and parts of Golden Plains Shire during prolonged dry periods.

At the height of the worst drought on record (2006 to 2010), Geelong’s water storages dropped to 14 per cent. During this time, the Geelong water supply system relied on the borefield to provide water.

Although operated infrequently, large amounts of groundwater was drawn when needed. Intermittent pumping has been an effective way to provide customers with water security and also allows time for the aquifer to replenish when not in use.

The Barwon Downs borefield is operated under licence from Southern Rural Water. This licence was granted in 2004 and is due for renewal in June, 2019.

Barwon Downs technical monitoring program

To ensure Barwon Water’s upcoming licence application is supported by good science, a program of technical studies and an enhanced monitoring program was implemented from 2012. The monitoring program continues to collect 'real time' data.

This program was driven by the need to address areas of community concern and technical knowledge gaps.

For the past four years, Barwon Water has worked with a community reference group to ensure, where possible, the monitoring program and technical studies take into consideration community issues.

Boundary Creek technical study findings

Recent technical work has confirmed that the operation of the Barwon Downs borefield over the past 30 years is responsible for two thirds of the reduction of base flow into Boundary Creek.

The dry climate experienced during the same period accounts for the remaining third.

This suggests that the lower sections of Boundary Creek would likely have no flow periods during summer regardless of groundwater pumping, however pumping has increased the frequency and duration of no flow periods in lower reaches of Boundary Creek.

Current situation

Barwon Water is currently working with the community and key stakeholders to understand how to balance the needs of the local environment while ensuring affordable water security for the broader region.

Community and stakeholder feedback will help shape Barwon Water's licence application to Southern Rural Water.

The Barwon Downs borefield is located in the foothills of the Otway Ranges approximately 70 kilometres south west of Geelong and 30 kilometres south east of Colac.

The borefield has been a crucial supply source for Geelong, the Surf Coast, Bellarine Peninsula and parts of Golden Plains Shire during prolonged dry periods.

At the height of the worst drought on record (2006 to 2010), Geelong’s water storages dropped to 14 per cent. During this time, the Geelong water supply system relied on the borefield to provide water.

Although operated infrequently, large amounts of groundwater was drawn when needed. Intermittent pumping has been an effective way to provide customers with water security and also allows time for the aquifer to replenish when not in use.

The Barwon Downs borefield is operated under licence from Southern Rural Water. This licence was granted in 2004 and is due for renewal in June, 2019.

Barwon Downs technical monitoring program

To ensure Barwon Water’s upcoming licence application is supported by good science, a program of technical studies and an enhanced monitoring program was implemented from 2012. The monitoring program continues to collect 'real time' data.

This program was driven by the need to address areas of community concern and technical knowledge gaps.

For the past four years, Barwon Water has worked with a community reference group to ensure, where possible, the monitoring program and technical studies take into consideration community issues.

Boundary Creek technical study findings

Recent technical work has confirmed that the operation of the Barwon Downs borefield over the past 30 years is responsible for two thirds of the reduction of base flow into Boundary Creek.

The dry climate experienced during the same period accounts for the remaining third.

This suggests that the lower sections of Boundary Creek would likely have no flow periods during summer regardless of groundwater pumping, however pumping has increased the frequency and duration of no flow periods in lower reaches of Boundary Creek.

Current situation

Barwon Water is currently working with the community and key stakeholders to understand how to balance the needs of the local environment while ensuring affordable water security for the broader region.

Community and stakeholder feedback will help shape Barwon Water's licence application to Southern Rural Water.

  • Yeodene Swamp study available

    8 days ago

    The Yeodene Swamp study which was commissioned by Barwon Water as part of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program for the Barwon Downs borefield is now available.

    Building on previous technical studies and an improved monitoring program, the Yeodene Swamp study looked at the interaction between groundwater pumping and the drying of the swamp.

    The study confirmed releases of acidic water from the swamp into Boundary Creek were largely the result of very dry climatic conditions and groundwater extraction.

    This study along with others will inform future discussions with the local community and key stakeholders to help shape our groundwater licence... Continue reading

    The Yeodene Swamp study which was commissioned by Barwon Water as part of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program for the Barwon Downs borefield is now available.

    Building on previous technical studies and an improved monitoring program, the Yeodene Swamp study looked at the interaction between groundwater pumping and the drying of the swamp.

    The study confirmed releases of acidic water from the swamp into Boundary Creek were largely the result of very dry climatic conditions and groundwater extraction.

    This study along with others will inform future discussions with the local community and key stakeholders to help shape our groundwater licence application.

    The community has been providing feedback on social, environmental and economic outcomes for the borefield and surrounding environment, including impacts and mitigation options. We have held two community workshops, with a third planned for December 5.

  • Barwon Downs borefield study on Yeodene Swamp

    about 1 month ago

    New scientific data showing the impacts of groundwater pumping on Yeodene Swamp (Big Swamp), also provides Barwon Water and the community with information to assist in planning and budgeting for remediation.

    The research, commissioned in 2013 by Barwon Water as part of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program, included acid sulphate soil experts reviewing the interaction between groundwater pumping and the drying of Big Swamp as well as options for remediation.

    Barwon Water General Manager Strategy and Partnerships Kate Sullivan said the latest study had confirmed releases of acidic water from the swamp into Boundary Creek were... Continue reading

    New scientific data showing the impacts of groundwater pumping on Yeodene Swamp (Big Swamp), also provides Barwon Water and the community with information to assist in planning and budgeting for remediation.

    The research, commissioned in 2013 by Barwon Water as part of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program, included acid sulphate soil experts reviewing the interaction between groundwater pumping and the drying of Big Swamp as well as options for remediation.

    Barwon Water General Manager Strategy and Partnerships Kate Sullivan said the latest study had confirmed releases of acidic water from the swamp into Boundary Creek were largely a result of very dry climatic conditions and groundwater extraction.

    “Through our monitoring program we are building a strong understanding of the connection between groundwater pumping from the Barwon Downs borefield and nearby waterways, including Boundary Creek and Big Swamp,” Ms Sullivan said.

    “This data is crucial as it provides a solid scientific basis for us to develop options to improve the condition of Big Swamp and minimise acid events in the future. We are absolutely committed to remediating the swamp to improve water quality and flows downstream.”

    Ms Sullivan said the findings were detailed in a draft report currently being reviewed by Barwon Water. It is expected the report will be released on Barwon Water’s website by the end of October.

    The Big Swamp study follows confirmation earlier this year of the impact of pumping on Boundary Creek.

    The outcomes of these studies, as well as community feedback being gathered through a series of workshops, will provide valuable information for Barwon Water’s Barwon Downs borefield licence renewal application, which is due to be submitted to Southern Rural Water in late 2017.

    Barwon Water is currently working with the community and key stakeholders to understand how to balance the needs of the local environment while ensuring affordable water security for the broader region.

    The community has been providing feedback on social, environmental and economic outcomes for the borefield and surrounding environment, including impacts and mitigation options. We have held two community workshops, with a third planned for November 15.

  • Workshop two generates community and stakeholder outcomes for the borefield

    about 1 month ago

    Last week, Barwon Water Managing Director, senior managers and employees joined 29 community and stakeholder participants in the second workshop to discuss the Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence renewal.

    The evening saw participants share their insights to develop nine core outcomes (end results) along with ideas for how these outcomes could be delivered for the Barwon Downs borefield and surrounding environment. Some of the outcomes shared included:

    • Restoration of community trust
    • Environment protection
    • Sustainable yield
    • Sulphate protection and rehabilitation of local rivers and Big Swamp
    • Aquifer recharge
    • Adaptive licence
    • Monitoring and assessment
    • ... Continue reading

    Last week, Barwon Water Managing Director, senior managers and employees joined 29 community and stakeholder participants in the second workshop to discuss the Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence renewal.

    The evening saw participants share their insights to develop nine core outcomes (end results) along with ideas for how these outcomes could be delivered for the Barwon Downs borefield and surrounding environment. Some of the outcomes shared included:

    • Restoration of community trust
    • Environment protection
    • Sustainable yield
    • Sulphate protection and rehabilitation of local rivers and Big Swamp
    • Aquifer recharge
    • Adaptive licence
    • Monitoring and assessment

    For more information on the outcomes, please review the community report.

    Barwon Water staff will now work through these outcomes and outline responses to each one. Barwon Water will then meet with the Barwon Downs Community Reference Group to share these responses and gather their responses too.

    On November 15, Barwon Water will convene a third and final independently facilitated workshop with the community and stakeholders to share these responses and finalise the community recommendations to support the groundwater licence renewal application for the borefield.

  • Community and stakeholder workshop generates feedback

    about 2 months ago

    Barwon Water hosted the first of three community and stakeholder workshops on the groundwater licence renewal for the Barwon Downs borefield on in late September.

    Attended by local residents and key stakeholders, the workshop provided participants with an opportunity to talk with Barwon Water's Chairman (Jo Plummer) and Managing Director (Tracey Slatter) around a number of key community concerns relating to the borefield.

    Participants were then asked to consider and provide feedback on how the borefield should be operated to ensure affordable water security for the region while balancing the needs of the environment. Specifically participants provided feedback on what... Continue reading

    Barwon Water hosted the first of three community and stakeholder workshops on the groundwater licence renewal for the Barwon Downs borefield on in late September.

    Attended by local residents and key stakeholders, the workshop provided participants with an opportunity to talk with Barwon Water's Chairman (Jo Plummer) and Managing Director (Tracey Slatter) around a number of key community concerns relating to the borefield.

    Participants were then asked to consider and provide feedback on how the borefield should be operated to ensure affordable water security for the region while balancing the needs of the environment. Specifically participants provided feedback on what 'success would look like' and identify strengths and weaknesses across a range of operating regimes.

    Feedback from the night included:

    • focusing on remediation and restoriation of the environment (including restoration of Boundary Creek)
    • no pumping
    • finding a balance between the environment and water for the community
    • having early / periodic licence reviews

    Barwon Water will hold the second workshop on October 12 and discuss this feedback in further detail.

    Barwon Water would like to thank all participants for attending and sharing their insights.

  • Community information sessions encourage great discussions

    3 months ago
    Bd info session cropped

    Barwon Water hosted two community information session on the groundwater licence renewal in early August in Geelong and Colac.

    Attended by local residents and key stakeholders, the sessions provided the community with an update on technical findings, next steps in the project and an opportunity to speak with Barwon Water and technical experts on the project.

    In case you missed the sessions, please take a look at the information that was on display.

    Key themes of the sessions focused on the environmental studies and results from the last two years.

    Barwon Water is currently collating feedback from these sessions... Continue reading

    Barwon Water hosted two community information session on the groundwater licence renewal in early August in Geelong and Colac.

    Attended by local residents and key stakeholders, the sessions provided the community with an update on technical findings, next steps in the project and an opportunity to speak with Barwon Water and technical experts on the project.

    In case you missed the sessions, please take a look at the information that was on display.

    Key themes of the sessions focused on the environmental studies and results from the last two years.

    Barwon Water is currently collating feedback from these sessions and planning two community and stakeholder workshops in late September / early October.

  • Barwon Downs borefield study released

    5 months ago

    A new study confirming the impacts of groundwater pumping on Boundary Creek will allow Barwon Water to develop an improved flow restoration plan based on solid scientific data.

    The study is part of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program launched in 2013 to help inform the corporation’s Barwon Downs borefield licence renewal application, which is due to be submitted to Southern Rural Water in late 2017.

    Barwon Water General Manager Strategy and Partnerships Carl Bicknell said while it has been known for some time that borefield pumping was connected to flows in Boundary Creek, the level of interaction had not been... Continue reading

    A new study confirming the impacts of groundwater pumping on Boundary Creek will allow Barwon Water to develop an improved flow restoration plan based on solid scientific data.

    The study is part of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program launched in 2013 to help inform the corporation’s Barwon Downs borefield licence renewal application, which is due to be submitted to Southern Rural Water in late 2017.

    Barwon Water General Manager Strategy and Partnerships Carl Bicknell said while it has been known for some time that borefield pumping was connected to flows in Boundary Creek, the level of interaction had not been fully understood.

    “As a condition of our current groundwater licence we have released supplementary flows into Boundary Creek. However, we know these flows have not always made their way to the lower reaches of the waterway,” Mr Bicknell said.

    “We now have results of a thorough scientific study that provides answers we can be confident in, allowing us to examine ways to restore flows that will compensate for the operation of the borefield,” he said.

    The borefield is a crucial supplementary water source for the region when surface storages are low. It consists of six bores that pump groundwater from an aquifer 300 to 630 metres below ground.

    In 2007, at the height of the worst drought on record, Geelong’s water storages dropped to just 14 per cent and the borefield provided up to 70 per cent of the city’s daily usage.

    Mr Bicknell said the new data was a result of a major update to the groundwater model for the Barwon Downs area.

    The model meets the highest ranking under Australian guidelines and is sophisticated enough to separate natural climate-related impacts from past groundwater pumping.

    It found operation of the borefield over the past 30 years was responsible for two thirds of the reduction in base flow from the aquifer into Boundary Creek. The dry climate experienced over the same period accounted for the remaining third.

    The model also shows the lower sections of Boundary Creek would likely have no flow periods during summer regardless of groundwater pumping. However, pumping has increased the frequency and duration of no-flow periods in lower reaches of Boundary Creek.

    The data confirmed there was no predicted impact to vegetation outside the Boundary Creek catchment as a result of groundwater pumping.

    Mr Bicknell said further technical studies were underway to assess the effect of a range of alternative borefield operating regimes on flows in Boundary Creek and measures to address the issue of acid water release from Big Swamp into Boundary Creek.

    To find out more about the licence renewal project and access technical reports please visit our document library.