Where is Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and the surrounding environment?

    Boundary Creek is a tributary of the Barwon River. Approximately 19 kilometres long, it flows east through Barongarook, and joins the Barwon River at Yeodene, approximately 16 kilometres south-east of Colac. Big Swamp (also known as Yeodene Swamp) is a peat swamp on Boundary Creek. The swamp is located about 4 kilometres upstream from the confluence of Boundary Creek and the Barwon River. 

    The surrounding environment investigation considers an extent of 480 km2 as the starting point to identify other potentially impacted areas. This includes 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.

    What is involved in delivering the Remediation and Environmental Protection Plan for Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and surrounding environment?

    The remediation of Big Swamp and Boundary Creek will involve the continual wetting of the swamp through a controlled release of water from Colac’s water supply system to Boundary Creek and the installation of hydraulic barriers to maintain surface water and groundwater levels within Big Swamp. The aim of this work is to improve water quality in Big Swamp, stabilise the acidification process that takes place due to the drying and wetting of the acid sulfate soils in the area, and reduce the risk and occurrences of acid being flushed into Boundary Creek in the long-term.

    The surrounding environment investigation considers an extent of 480 km2 as the starting point to identify other potentially impacted areas. This includes 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. 

    Is there a role for the community in providing oversight and feedback during implementation of the plan?

    Barwon Water is committed to continuing an open and transparent relationship with the community and key stakeholders during the implementation of the Remediation and Environmental Protection Plan (REPP). The community and stakeholder working group that provided valuable advice into the development of the remediation plan over 18-months will continue to provide oversight and feedback during its implementation. 

    We will also share updates with Barwon Water’s Environmental Advisory Committee - which includes a range of environmental groups from across our region, and has a role in advising us on local environmental issues and policy – as well as our Customer Advisory Committee.

    Where can I find more information?

    Read more via the quarterly updates and Annual Report in the Document Library.

    We will continue to share updates with our community and stakeholder working group and via our dedicated Boundary Creek web page, media releases, social media, local newspapers and newsletters.

    What is the remediation plan for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp?

    The remediation plan outlines the measures to be implemented to improve water quality and flows in Boundary Creek, improve vegetation in Big Swamp and reduce fire risk within the swamp. 

    The plan has been informed by 18 months of technical investigations, with remediation to be achieved through the continual wetting of Big Swamp via 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 from 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.

    Barwon Water is providing 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 and other interested community members.

    During consultation the working group nominated 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 options 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 six 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.

    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 sulfate 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 is sharing 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?

    No, Barwon Water no longer holds a licence for groundwater extraction for the Barwon Downs borefield. 

    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).

    Will Barwon Water submit a new licence application for the Barwon Downs borefield and extract groundwater from this site in the future?

    Barwon Water will not consider any future use of the borefield (and will not consider applying for another licence) until remediation is complete. 

    Through our Water for our Future program we are partnering with the community, stakeholders and regional leaders to design a new water future for our region. Feedback will help us develop the 2022 Urban Water Strategy, which will determine water supply options into the future. Learn more about this program at www.waterfuture.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/  

    Will the amount of water that can be taken (Permissible Consumptive Volume) from the borefield be reviewed in the future?

    The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is responsible for completing a resource assessment and advising the Minister for Water about the sustainable level of take and whether the PCV should be changed. The progress of Barwon Water’s remediation may provide information relevant to any future review of the PCV for the area.

    How is Barwon Water ensuring water for Boundary Creek landowners?

    Barwon Water has constructed 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.