BARWON Water has withdrawn its application to renew its licence to pull water from the Barwon Downs borefield for the moment, citing “concern and confusion” from the community about the water authority’s intentions.
The borefield provided as much as 70 per cent of Geelong’s drinking water during the 2007 drought, but no water has been extracted since 2016.
Some rivers and creeks have been affected by past extraction, including Boundary Creek, and Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville last year issued a remediation plan to Barwon Water to protect the health of waterways affected by overextraction of groundwater from the borefield.
Barwon Water was planning to renew its licence for the borefield, but announced last week that it would withdraw the application until remediation was complete.
Barwon Water chair Jo Plummer said the water authority 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.”
She said while the Barwon Downs borefield was 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.
“Barwon Water is also now comfortable that enough protection is in place to prevent other parties from accessing the resource at this time.
“We very much appreciate the ongoing work of our stakeholder and community groups including the Remediation Working Group, which has now had four valuable meetings, and the Barwon Downs Community Reference Group.”