Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation

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Boundary Creek is a tributary of the Barwon River.

About 19 kilometres long, it flows east through Barongarook, and joins the Barwon River at Yeodene, about 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 four kilometres upstream from the confluence of Boundary Creek and the Barwon River.

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.

The remediation of Boundary Creek and Big Swamp was identified as a community priority during the consultation for the Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence renewal in the latter part of 2017.

Since May 2018, Barwon Water has been working with a dedicated community and stakeholder working group to develop a remediation plan for Big Swamp and Boundary Creek.

In late February 2020, Southern Rural Water accepted Barwon Water's remediation and environmental protection plan for Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and the surrounding environment.

Implementation of the remediation and environmental protection plan commenced in March 2020.

Barwon Water is committed to keeping the local community and key stakeholders informed regarding the progress of remediation and to sharing the findings and outcomes of the plan.


See also: Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation

Boundary Creek is a tributary of the Barwon River.

About 19 kilometres long, it flows east through Barongarook, and joins the Barwon River at Yeodene, about 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 four kilometres upstream from the confluence of Boundary Creek and the Barwon River.

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.

The remediation of Boundary Creek and Big Swamp was identified as a community priority during the consultation for the Barwon Downs borefield groundwater licence renewal in the latter part of 2017.

Since May 2018, Barwon Water has been working with a dedicated community and stakeholder working group to develop a remediation plan for Big Swamp and Boundary Creek.

In late February 2020, Southern Rural Water accepted Barwon Water's remediation and environmental protection plan for Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and the surrounding environment.

Implementation of the remediation and environmental protection plan commenced in March 2020.

Barwon Water is committed to keeping the local community and key stakeholders informed regarding the progress of remediation and to sharing the findings and outcomes of the plan.


See also: Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation

  • Quarterly remediation update submitted to Southern Rural Water

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    02 July, 2020

    Barwon Water continues to progress the implementation of the remediation and environmental protection plan (REPP) for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp, with the plan’s first quarterly update submitted to Southern Rural Water.

    The update, along with the results of two other reports – the Big Swamp Acid Sulfate Soil Study and the latest Barwon River Macroinvertebrate sampling report - are available to read on Barwon Water’s dedicated project website.

    Barwon Water is remediating the confirmed impacts from historic management of groundwater pumping of the Barwon Downs Borefield, which was relied upon heavily during the millennium drought.

    Managing director Tracey Slatter said the first quarterly update was an important milestone in the remediation plan, showing the progress beginning to be made in the detailed design phase of the REPP.

    Ms Slatter said that the findings of the Big Swamp Acid Sulfate Soil Study confirm that maintaining the swamp in a saturated state will support the remediation.

    Impacts from historic management of groundwater pumping of the Barwon Downs Borefield included the reduction of flows in Boundary Creek and the subsequent activation of acid sulfate soils in Big Swamp, resulting in acidic water discharging to Boundary Creek downstream of the swamp.

    The quarterly update also provides information on the surrounding area investigation plan and the ongoing commitment to work with the community on the implementation of the REPP, with the details of ongoing community involvement to be worked through.

    A dedicated community and stakeholder remediation working group and its nominated independent technical experts provided valuable advice into the development of the proposed remediation plan over an 18-month period.

    Members of the group – which met 10 times and included representatives from LAWROC, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA), Colac Otway Shire Council, Environment Victoria, Upper Barwon Landcare Group, Boundary Creek landowners and other interested community members – continue to be updated on the progress of implementation of the plan.

    Key requirements of the section 78 notice and the REPP is the provision of quarterly updates to Southern Rural Water to report on progress with implementation of the plan, as well as an Annual Report.

    The Annual Report is required to be submitted to SRW and made publicly available by 30 September each year.

    In addition to the information contained in the quarterly updates, the Annual Report will provide more detail from technical investigations, monitoring data, and measure how the REPP is tracking against its success targets.

  • Barwon Water welcomes plan acceptance

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    28 February, 2020

    Barwon Water is looking forward to getting to work following acceptance by Southern Rural Water of the proposed remediation and environmental protection plan for Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and the surrounding environment.

    Barwon Water submitted the proposed plan to Southern Rural Water on December 20 last year and, after incorporation of Southern Rural Water’s feedback into the plan this week, is excited to immediately implement the adaptive management approach outlined in the plan.

    Barwon Water managing director Tracey Slatter said that the action in the plan to keep Big Swamp wet via provision of supplementary flows to Boundary Creek was already under way.

    “By keeping the swamp wet, the plan aims to stabilise the acidification process that takes place due to the drying and wetting of the acid sulfate soils within the swamp, and reduce the risk of acid flush events in Boundary Creek in the long-term.

    “In addition to maintaining the supplementary water releases, the first step in the adaptive plan includes continued collection of data to refine the design of the preferred remediation option, which is to install hydraulic barriers to slow and spread the flow of surface water through Big Swamp.”

    Other early measures in the plan relate to the surrounding area investigation to ascertain if other areas within the regional groundwater system have been adversely impacted by historical management of groundwater pumping.

    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 impacts are confirmed.

    Barwon Water will provide quarterly updates to Southern Rural Water as it implements the plan.

    “We are looking forward to working with Southern Rural Water over the coming months and years as we implement the plan, share data and adapt the plan based on observed outcomes.”

    Ms Slatter said the remediation plan was a clear statement of Barwon Water’s unwavering commitment to delivering successful environmental outcomes and working with the community.

    “We remain committed to keeping the local community and key stakeholders informed regarding the progress of remediation and to sharing the findings and outcomes of the plan.”

    Barwon Water will host a meeting with its Remediation Working Group members and their nominated independent technical experts to share Southern Rural Water’s feedback on the Remediation Plan.

    Barwon Water will also invite the working group members to say how they and the broader community would like to be involved as the plan is implemented.

    The remediation plan responds to the requirements of a Ministerial Notice issued to Barwon Water under section 78 of the Water Act 1989.

  • Community information session - 29 January 2020

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    16 January, 2020

    Barwon Water is hosting an information session to update the community on the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation project.

    The session will provide key information on the proposed remediation plan that has been submitted to Southern Rural Water. Members of the project team will be available to discuss any questions.

    Event details:

    Where: The Eastern Hub (Members Room), Eastern Reserve, Hopkins Street, Winchelsea

    When: Wednesday 29 January 2020

    Time: 5pm to 7pm

  • Remediation and Environmental Protection Plan submitted

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    20 December, 2019

    Barwon Water has submitted its proposed remediation and environmental protection plan for Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and the surrounding environment to Southern Rural Water (SRW) following 18 months of scientific studies, advice from independent technical experts and valuable community feedback.


    Managing Director Tracey Slatter said the proposed plan was a positive step in the process to remediate the confirmed impacts from historic management of groundwater pumping of the Barwon Downs Borefield, which was last used in 2016.

    Confirmed impacts include the reduction of flows in Boundary Creek and the subsequent activation of acid sulfate soils in Big Swamp, resulting in acidic water discharging to Boundary Creek downstream of the swamp.

    Eight key principles underpin the proposed plan and include continuing an open and transparent relationship with Traditional Owners, the community and key stakeholders during its implementation and not jeopardising the recovery of water levels in the Lower Tertiary Aquifer (LTA).

    The LTA water level is recovering through rainfall recharge and is protected by the low Permissible Consumptive Volume (PCV) for the borefield, which was reset from 20,000 megalitres per year to 239 megalitres per year by Minister for Water the Hon. Lisa Neville MP in July.

    About the remediation plan
    Barwon Water’s proposed remediation plan will involve direct action and constant monitoring and adjustment to ensure improvements to water flows and quality, vegetation and ecology in Boundary Creek and Big Swamp.

    Ms Slatter said the proposed plan would focus on 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.

    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 of acid flush events in Boundary Creek in the long-term.

    “We will work closely with independent technical experts throughout every stage of the proposed remediation plan,” Ms Slatter said.

    “We will continue environmental monitoring, which includes water quality sampling, water level and flow monitoring, vegetation surveys, and sediment and macroinvertebrate sampling.

    “If we find further action is needed, the proposed remediation plan can be adapted to incorporate appropriate contingency measures, as advised by technical experts, which could include treating water leaving Big Swamp.”

    Ms Slatter said once the remediation strategy was implemented, it was forecast that low pH events would diminish during the next decade and that the ecological values of the swamp would improve.

    “This is a carefully considered plan, based on significant community and technical input,” she said.

    The proposed plan will also investigate whether or not other areas within the regional groundwater system have been impacted.

    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 impacts from historical management of groundwater pumping is confirmed.

    The proposed remediation plan responds to the requirements of a Ministerial Notice issued to Barwon Water under section 78 of the Water Act 1989.

    Thanks to the community
    Ms Slatter thanked the dedicated community and stakeholder remediation working group and its nominated independent technical experts for providing valuable advice into the development of the proposed remediation plan over an 18-month period.

    The group, which met 10 times, was comprised of Traditional Owners, representatives from LAWROC, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA), Colac Otway Shire Council, Environment Victoria, Upper Barwon Landcare Group, Boundary Creek landowners and other interested community members.

    The three nominated experts were Dr Darren Baldwin (independent consultant), Dr Vanessa Wong (Monash University) and Professor Richard Bush (Monash University).

    In addition to engaging with the working group, Barwon Water hosted five information sessions in Winchelsea, Birregurra and Colac to provide the community with updates on the project and an opportunity to ask questions and have input into the process.

    Next steps
    Southern Rural Water will consider the proposed plan with feedback to Barwon Water expected in late February. For more information on this, please visit: www.srw.com.au/barwondowns
  • Community information sessions - 16 & 30 October 2019

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    16 October, 2019

    Barwon Water is hosting information sessions to update the community on the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation project. We will include an update on the field program and development of the remediation plan. Members of the project team will be available to answer any questions.

    Colac information session - 16 October
    Where: Colac Otway Performing Arts and Cultural
    Centre (COPACC) Gellibrand Street, Colac
    When: Wednesday 16 October 2019
    Time: 12–2 pm and 5–7 pm

    Winchelsea information session - 30 October
    Where: The Eastern Hub (Members Room), Eastern
    Reserve, Hopkins Street, Winchelsea
    When: Wednesday 30 October 2019
    Time: 4–7 pm

    More information
    The information posters from the sessions are available in the Document Library.
    If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the Communications & Engagement team on 1300 656 007.

  • Revised scope of works to inform Boundary Creek and Big Swamp Remediation Plan submitted to Southern Rural Water

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    02 August, 2019

    Following ongoing engagement with independent experts and a community remediation working group, Barwon Water this week submitted to Southern Rural Water a revised scope of works for its Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation plan.

    Preparing a scope of works is a critical step in the process required under the conditions of a Section 78 Ministerial Notice that was issued to Barwon Water in 2018, directing it to develop and implement a remediation plan for or Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and surrounding environments.

    In accordance with that notice, Barwon Water submitted its scope of works to Southern Rural Water on December 20, 2018.

    This document outlined the area that will be covered by the remediation plan, the environmental values to be included and the necessary environmental assessments and methodology proposed to develop the remediation plan.

    Barwon Water subsequently sought additional feedback from Southern Rural Water and its Technical Review Panel, as well as the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp Remediation community working group and its independent experts on the scope of works document.

    In addition, a comprehensive field program of scientific and environmental assessments to address information gaps was completed during March to June, these assessments included:

    • soil sampling (more than 200kg of soil was collected for analysis)
    • updated LIDAR imagery to more accurately map vegetation
    • installation of monitoring equipment in Big Swamp

    Barwon Water’s Chief Scientist Dr. Will Buchanan said interim results of the soil sampling confirmed previous understanding of the soil characterisation of Big Swamp.

    “These results provide Barwon Water with a better understanding of the various soil types within the swamp to help inform remediation options for the Swamp,” Dr Buchanan said.

    Using this feedback and new scientific data, Barwon Water refined and strengthened its scope of works and circulated to the remediation working group for review and feedback.

    “In mid-July, Barwon Water met with the remediation working group and their nominated experts to discuss the revised scope of works document and share interim results of the field program,” Dr Buchanan said.

    “Overall, the remediation working group were positive of the document and the work that had been completed to address Southern Rural Water’s review panel and working group experts feedback,” he said.

    “The working group requested Barwon Water make final changes to the scope of works, mostly in relation to adding detail to the methodology section,” he said.

    Barwon Water submitted the revised scope of works to Southern Rural Water to review on 30 July 2019.

    “We will continue to provide monthly updates to the remediation working group and will meet with the working group and their nominated experts in late September,” said Dr Buchanan.

    The community remediation working group is made up of representatives from the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA), Colac Otway Shire Council, LAWROC, PALM (People for a Living Moorabool), Upper Barwon Landcare Group, Boundary Creek landowners, Traditional Owners and other interested community members.

    A series of public information sessions is being planned to provide an update on the project and next steps to all members of the community. Dates and locations will be advertised shortly.

    Read: Scope of Works

  • Community information sessions complete

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    16 April, 2019

    Barwon Water concluded its community information session series last night in Colac.

    Three community information sessions were hosted over the last week to provide an update on the Barwon Downs borefield licence application withdrawal and the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation project.

    Sessions were hosted in Winchelsea, Birregurra and Colac which saw more than 40 people attend. Attendees included representatives from local landcare groups, local land owners, environmental groups and local newspapers.

    Barwon Water General Manager Strategy, Systems and Environment Kate Sullivan said the response to the community information sessions shows the community’s passion and dedication for the local environment.

    “One of the key themes discussed at information sessions, was the process for developing the remediation plan, which includes prioritising remediation for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp where we know we have had an impact as well as investigating whether there have been impacts in other areas.”

    “In addition, attendees were very interested in Barwon Water’s plans to secure future water supplies.”

    “Overall the community were positive that Barwon Water were out and about in the community talking about the remediation project.”

    The current phase of the remediation project is our environmental assessment field program which is commencing next week, subject to approvals and weather.

    “We will provide monthly updates to the remediation working group and meet with the group again in the coming months to provide an update on the field program and what the preliminary results are telling us.”

    In the latter part of 2019, Barwon Water will continue to work with the remediation working group and their nominated experts to develop a remediation plan, which will be submitted to Southern Rural Water and its independent technical review panel for approval.

    The remediation working group comprises community members and representatives from local agencies and environmental groups, including Traditional Owners, Boundary Creek landowners, LAWROC (Land and Water Resources Otway Catchment), PALM (People for a Living Moorabool), the Upper Barwon Landcare Network, Colac Otway Shire Council and the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority.

  • Community information session to share update on Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation project

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    04 April, 2019

    Barwon Water is hosting three community information sessions to provide an update on the Barwon Downs borefield licence application withdrawal and the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation project.

    An open house style event, the information sessions will be an opportunity for stakeholders and the community to drop in to learn more about both topics. Information sessions will be hosted at the following locations:

    Winchelsea information session
    Where: The Eastern Hub (Members Room), Eastern Reserve, Hopkins Street, Winchelsea
    When: Thursday 4 April from 4pm - 7pm

    Birregurra information session
    Where: Birregurra Hall (The Seniors Room), 42-44 Main Street, Birregurra
    When: Saturday 6 April from 10am - 1pm

    Colac information session
    Where: Colac Bowling Club, corner of Moore and Armstrong streets, Colac
    When: Wednesday 10 April from 4pm - 7pm

    The information sessions will provide key information on both the remediation project and recent licence application withdrawal and members of the project team will be available to discuss any questions.

  • Outcomes of meeting five for the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation plan

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    04 April, 2019

    Barwon Water held its fifth meeting with the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp Remediation Working Group in late March, to continue discussions about developing a remediation plan.

    Barwon Water General Manager Strategy, Systems and Environment Kate Sullivan said the latest meeting of the community remediation working group provided an opportunity to discuss and ask questions about Barwon Water’s recent withdrawal of its licence application and any implications this had for the remediation process underway.

    This meeting followed four previous meetings with the working group whose role is to participate in the design of the remediation plan and provide greater awareness of the remediation plan across the community.

    The group have nominated three independent experts whose role is to represent the interests of the environment and members of the working group to provide expertise and scientific rigour to the development of the remediation plan.

    “The independent experts have critically reviewed and provided feedback on the environmental and scientific field program and assessments. Their review has taken into account existing literature and concerns raised by members of the group. Barwon Water has used this information to refine and strengthen the upcoming field program and assessments,” Ms Sullivan said.

    “The purpose of this field program and environmental assessments is to resolve information gaps raised as concerns by the working group to better understand aspects of Big Swamp and Boundary Creek, and use the outcomes of that work to inform a remediation approach for that specific catchment,” she said.

    “One of the key topics discussed at meeting five, was the process for developing the remediation plan, which includes prioritising remediation for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp where we know we have had an impact as well as investigating whether there have been impacts in other areas. We will work with key stakeholders to ensure this happens.

    “An extensive environmental and scientific field program is due to commence in late April.

    “We will provide monthly updates to the remediation working group and meet with the group again in the coming months to provide an update on the field program and what the preliminary results are telling us.”

    Barwon Water intends to submit its remediation plan to Southern Rural Water for review at the end of 2019.

  • Outcomes of meeting four for the Big Swamp and Boundary Creek remediation plan

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    28 February, 2019

    Barwon Water re-convened its Boundary Creek and Big Swamp remediation working group in late February to hear from its nominated technical experts about the environmental assessments required to inform the remediation plan Boundary Creek and Big Swamp.

    Overall the group were supportive of the proposed environmental assessments. The group were complimentary and appreciative of the nominated experts in distilling their concerns and views into a technical document.

    Barwon Water advised that the environmental assessments would will commence in April 2019.