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.

Status of licence application

In December 2018, we submitted a groundwater licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield to Southern Rural Water. The application is made in accordance with section 58 of the Water Act 1989.

On March 14, 2019, Barwon Water announced it would withdraw its licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield until remediation of the historical impacts of groundwater pumping is complete.

Chair Jo Plummer said Barwon Water remained committed to ensuring water security, protecting the environment and keeping prices low.

Read: Barwon Water withdraws Barwon Downs borefield groundwater application

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.

Status of licence application

In December 2018, we submitted a groundwater licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield to Southern Rural Water. The application is made in accordance with section 58 of the Water Act 1989.

On March 14, 2019, Barwon Water announced it would withdraw its licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield until remediation of the historical impacts of groundwater pumping is complete.

Chair Jo Plummer said Barwon Water remained committed to ensuring water security, protecting the environment and keeping prices low.

Read: Barwon Water withdraws Barwon Downs borefield groundwater application

  • Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence application withdrawn

    4 months ago

    Barwon Water announced today it will withdraw its licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield until remediation of the historical impacts of groundwater pumping is complete.

    Chair Jo Plummer said Barwon Water remained committed to ensuring water security, protecting the environment and keeping prices low.


    “While, the Barwon Downs borefield is one of a number of important resources for Geelong’s longer term water security, Barwon Water changed its approach over a year ago and made the use of the borefield a last resort. This was evidenced, last week, with the announcement that we are turning on the Melbourne...

    Barwon Water announced today it will withdraw its licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield until remediation of the historical impacts of groundwater pumping is complete.

    Chair Jo Plummer said Barwon Water remained committed to ensuring water security, protecting the environment and keeping prices low.


    “While, the Barwon Downs borefield is one of a number of important resources for Geelong’s longer term water security, Barwon Water changed its approach over a year ago and made the use of the borefield a last resort. This was evidenced, last week, with the announcement that we are turning on the Melbourne to Geelong Pipeline, due to the dry summer.”

    We have also always committed – in public forums and through our licence renewal application – that we would not pump from the borefield until remediation was complete, which may take several years. The borefield has not been used since 2016,” Ms Plummer said.

    Ms Plummer said while the Barwon Downs borefield is not required for water security in the short term, applying for the licence when it was due for renewal, was seen as a good way to preserve the entitlement for future water security, post remediation.

    “It is clear however that there is concern and confusion about why Barwon Water would be applying for a licence while we are still in the very early stages of the remediation process. We want to respond to these concerns,” Ms Plummer said.

    “Barwon Water is also now comfortable that enough protection is in place to prevent other parties from accessing the resource at this time.

    “For these reasons Barwon Water has decided at this time to withdraw the licence application to focus wholly on the remediation of past historical impacts of groundwater pumping,” Ms Plummer said.

    “We very much appreciate the ongoing work of the remediation working group, which has now had four valuable meetings.”

    Ms Plummer said Barwon Water was planning to engage with customers and the community across the region about options for long-term water security.

    “In the short term, we are already completing the construction of the Lovely Banks to Montpellier Basin pumping station to enable full utilisation of the Melbourne to Geelong pipeline capacity which will further enhance water security. We are also continuing to invest in water conservation and efficiency programs.”

    Ms Plummer said the proposal to withdraw the licence renewal application does not reflect any change in Barwon Water’s assessment or judgement of the quality of the work that has been undertaken over the past seven years to inform the application.

    Barwon Water will reassess the possibility of submitting for another licence application post the successful completion of remediation.

    Any future application would be subject to the same statutory processes for assessment of the application at that time. The community will be engaged prior to any future application to again seek their input.

    Barwon Water will however apply to be able to maintain the bores and implement some aspects of the remediation in accordance with the Section 78 Ministerial Direction.

  • Licence renewal submitted to Southern Rural Water

    7 months ago

    Barwon Water has submitted its groundwater licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield to Southern Rural Water for review and assessment. The application is in accordance with section 58 of the Water Act 1989.

    The licence application has been developed over the past six years with broad community engagement as well as a comprehensive scientific monitoring program and supporting technical studies. The application seeks to continue Barwon Water’s access to this critical water source for ongoing water security and affordability while managing important environmental values.

    Southern Rural Water will now commence assessing the application in accordance with the requirements...

    Barwon Water has submitted its groundwater licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield to Southern Rural Water for review and assessment. The application is in accordance with section 58 of the Water Act 1989.

    The licence application has been developed over the past six years with broad community engagement as well as a comprehensive scientific monitoring program and supporting technical studies. The application seeks to continue Barwon Water’s access to this critical water source for ongoing water security and affordability while managing important environmental values.

    Southern Rural Water will now commence assessing the application in accordance with the requirements of the Water Act 1989.

    For further information on the application assessment process, please contact Southern Rural Water.

  • Remediation approach for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp environments

    11 months ago

    Barwon Water welcomes the direction from the Minister for Water in relation to a legally enforceable remediation plan for the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp environments impacted by past groundwater extraction at Barwon Downs, under Section 78 of the Water Act 1989.

    Managing Director, Tracey Slatter said this not only provides added assurance to the community but legally enshrines Barwon Water’s intention to remediate Boundary Creek and Big Swamp as part of its application to Southern Rural Water to renew the Barwon Downs borefield licence.

    “Barwon Water is keen to cooperate with the Section 78 notice and the licence...

    Barwon Water welcomes the direction from the Minister for Water in relation to a legally enforceable remediation plan for the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp environments impacted by past groundwater extraction at Barwon Downs, under Section 78 of the Water Act 1989.

    Managing Director, Tracey Slatter said this not only provides added assurance to the community but legally enshrines Barwon Water’s intention to remediate Boundary Creek and Big Swamp as part of its application to Southern Rural Water to renew the Barwon Downs borefield licence.

    “Barwon Water is keen to cooperate with the Section 78 notice and the licence application process to get the right outcomes,” Ms Slatter said.

    “We are also committed to working closely with the local community, key agencies and technical experts in the years ahead as we work towards achieving this,” Ms Slatter said.

    “We have been consulting with the community and key stakeholders to help Barwon Water design the remediation plan including identifying what the success criteria might be.”

    At the request of community members, three independent technical experts were invited to contribute to the process. These experts will work with Barwon Water’s existing technical consultant and the remediation working group to refine the remediation concept and address any important information gaps before finalising the plan.

    For more information on the Big Swamp and Boundary Creek remediation project, please visit www.yoursay.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/boundary-creek.

  • Drafting the groundwater licence application

    about 1 year ago
    Barwon Water is in the process of drafting its groundwater licence application which is planned to be submitted to Southern Rural Water in mid-2018.

    The Barwon Downs Community Reference Group submitted and presented their recommendation report to the Barwon Water Board in early May, 2018. This was an excellent opportunity for the Board to hear personally from the reference group.

    This report along with all other community feedback will be considered as part of our licence application development and will be attached to our application.

    Since the community and stakeholder workshops in 2017, Barwon Water has received some community feedback...

    Barwon Water is in the process of drafting its groundwater licence application which is planned to be submitted to Southern Rural Water in mid-2018.

    The Barwon Downs Community Reference Group submitted and presented their recommendation report to the Barwon Water Board in early May, 2018. This was an excellent opportunity for the Board to hear personally from the reference group.

    This report along with all other community feedback will be considered as part of our licence application development and will be attached to our application.

    Since the community and stakeholder workshops in 2017, Barwon Water has received some community feedback on Barwon Water’s proposed overall volumetric entitlement for the next licence period.

    The upcoming application for renewal of our groundwater licence will propose a careful and adaptive approach to use of the borefield during the 15-year term of the licence.

    The licence will propose a three phase management plan that places additional constraints on the use of the borefield as follows:
    • Phase 1 – remediation of Boundary Creek, with no production pumping from Barwon Downs other than if required in an unlikely emergency event. This phase will also include further investigations to improve the understanding of interaction between groundwater pumping and the Barwon River.
    • Phase 2 – low rate test pumping.
    • Phase 3 – commencement of production pumping if required, but within the sustainable caps confirmed at the end of Phase 2.
    The volumetric entitlements are still being refined.

    Barwon Water will continue to keep the community and stakeholders informed of the licence application process.
  • Workshop 3 sees participants share persepctives and feedback

    over 1 year ago

    Earlier this month, Barwon Water held its third community and stakeholder workshop on the Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence renewal.

    Independently facilitated, Barwon Water presented its proposed actions in response to the community outcomes identified at workshop two.

    Participants were asked to share their perspectives and provide feedback about what they liked about each action and what would improve each action, these were categorised into the themes of:

    • Interactive engagement with the community and key stakeholders
    • Developing and implementing a remediation plan for Boundary Creek
    • Establishing an adaptive monitoring program
    • A precautionary approach to managing...

    Earlier this month, Barwon Water held its third community and stakeholder workshop on the Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence renewal.

    Independently facilitated, Barwon Water presented its proposed actions in response to the community outcomes identified at workshop two.

    Participants were asked to share their perspectives and provide feedback about what they liked about each action and what would improve each action, these were categorised into the themes of:

    • Interactive engagement with the community and key stakeholders
    • Developing and implementing a remediation plan for Boundary Creek
    • Establishing an adaptive monitoring program
    • A precautionary approach to managing the borefield
    • Building knowledge and trust in the science with the community

    Barwon Water will now work through all the feedback received so that where possible, the development of the licence application is reflective of community desires.
  • Yeodene Swamp study available

    over 1 year 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...

    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

    over 1 year 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...

    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

    over 1 year 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
    • ...

    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

    almost 2 years 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...

    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

    almost 2 years 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...

    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.