What is the remediation plan for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp?
The remediation plan aims to improve water quality and flows in Boundary Creek, improve vegetation in Big Swamp and reduce fire risk. This will be achieved by the continual wetting of Big Swamp through controlled release of water to Boundary Creek and the installation of hydraulic barriers to maintain surface water and groundwater levels within Big Swamp.
Is remediation just focusing on Boundary Creek and Big Swamp?
The Remediation and Environmental Protection Plan will focus on improving the health of Boundary Creek and Big Swamp, areas of confirmed impacts from historical management of groundwater pumping.
The plan will also investigate whether environmental values in other areas within the regional groundwater system have been impacted including some reaches along the Barwon River, Gellibrand River, Ten Mile Creek, Yahoo Creek and other groundwater dependent features such as vegetation near Yeodene and Deans Marsh.
Barwon Water will share the outcomes of the assessment of these other areas with Southern Rural Water to determine what remediation steps need to be taken if environmentally significant adverse impacts by historical management of groundwater pumping is confirmed.
What will successful remediation of the Boundary Creek catchment look like?
Successful remediation of the Boundary Creek catchment will be based on meeting the key success goals of improved vegetation, water quality, and flows in Boundary Creek and reduced fire risk within Big Swamp.
How long will it take for successful remediation of the Boundary Creek catchment?
There is no certainty about the time it will take for successful remediation to occur, but it is expected that improvements will be seen within 10 years.
Following approval of the Remediation Plan, and in accordance with the s78 notice, Barwon Water will provide quarterly updates to Southern Rural Water on the Remediation Plan’s implementation. In addition, an Annual Report on the Remediation Plan’s implementation will be submitted and made available to the community.
Barwon Water commits to ongoing communication and sharing of data and information with the community to update them on how the project is tracking against the success criteria.
How did Barwon Water engage with the community to develop the Remediation Plan for Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and surrounding environments?
Barwon Water established and collaborated with a dedicated community and stakeholder working group during the development of the Remediation Plan, the group consisted of community and stakeholder representatives from the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA), Colac Otway Shire Council, LAWROC, Environment Victoria, Upper Barwon Landcare Group, Boundary Creek landowners, Traditional Owners and other interested community members.
During consultation the working group was invited to nominate three independent experts to support them in their discussions and translate community views and values into scientific and technical content to ensure these were reflected in any remediation option considered.
The three nominated experts were Dr Darren Baldwin (independent consultant), Dr Vanessa Wong (Monash University) and Professor Richard Bush (Monash University).
The Remediation Working Group met a total of 10 times with Barwon Water, the group’s nominated experts and other technical consultants from May 2018 until mid-December 2019.
In addition, Barwon Water hosted five community information sessions in Winchelsea, Birregurra and Colac to provide critical updates on the project, outcomes and advice from the Remediation Working Group and an opportunity for the broader community to ask questions and have input into the process.
An additional community information session about the Remediation Plan is due to be held in January 2020.
What is the geographic area covered by the Section 78 notice?
The whole extent of the Lower Tertiary Aquifer (LTA) regional groundwater system (an area of approximately 480 km2) is covered.
Barwon Water used the Ministerial Guidelines for Groundwater Licensing and the Protection of High Value Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) to identify areas within this 480 km2 area that are prioritised for investigation as to whether they have been impacted by historical management of groundwater pumping.
The guidelines were also used to assess the potential risk to vegetation and rivers and have been adapted to assess the risk of potential acid sulphate soils.
The Remediation Plan outlines a surrounding area investigation for some reaches along the Barwon River, Gellibrand River, Ten Mile Creek, Yahoo Creek and other groundwater dependent features such as vegetation near Yeodene and Deans Marsh.
As part of the plan, Barwon Water will share the outcomes of the investigation with Southern Rural Water to determine what remediation steps need to be taken if environmentally significant impacts by historical management of groundwater pumping is confirmed.
Is Barwon Water allowed to extract groundwater from the Barwon Downs borefield?
Barwon Water no longer holds a licence for groundwater extraction for the Barwon Downs borefield.
When the new PCV was set in mid-2019, it included a provision for a small quantity of water per year to be used for pump testing and maintenance, if required.
Barwon Water last operated the borefield for drinking water purposes in 2016.
In 2017, Barwon Water removed the pumps from the bores and as a result of carrying out this activity a small amount of water was extracted (0.5 megalitres).
In the event pump testing or maintenance needed to occur, Barwon Water would communicate this with the relevant regulatory stakeholders and broader community.
Will Barwon Water submit a new licence application for the Barwon Downs borefield and extract groundwater from this site in the future?
Will the amount of water that can be taken (Permissible Consumptive Volume) from the borefield be reviewed in the future?
How is Barwon Water ensuring water for Boundary Creek landowners?
Barwon Water is constructing a dedicated stock pipeline and access to piped water at no additional cost to Boundary Creek landowners impacted by low quality water in the creek. This arrangement will be in place until flows and water quality in the affected reach of Boundary Creek are suitable for stock consumption. Construction is expected to commence in the summer of 2020.