THE state government last week announced it was limiting groundwater extraction in the Otways, a decision welcomed by Barwon Water.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville reduced the limit on how much water can be taken from the Gerangamete Groundwater Management Area (GMA), which includes the Barwon Downs borefield from 20,000 megalitres per year to just 239 megalitres per year.
The limit on taking water from the neighbouring Gellibrand GMA, that shares a common recharge area with Gerangamete GMA, has been set at zero.
This decision cuts the Permissible Consumptive Volumes (PCV) – the amount of groundwater that can be extracted – to allow for the recovery of the Gerangamete groundwater resource and its surrounding environment and ecosystems.
Ms Neville said the amendment would support Barwon Water’s remediation works to improve and protect the health of Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and the surrounding environments, which were necessary due to the drying of Big Swamp and the acidification of the soil and runoff there, following years of pumping from the borefield when low local water supplies demanded it.
“Reducing the extraction limit at Gerangamete is a common sense move that will allow the groundwater resource and its surrounding areas to recover from the impacts of past extraction.”
Barwon Water managing director Tracey Slatter said the new PCV protects the aquifer from usage while remediation was being completed.
“In March this year, Barwon Water withdrew its licence application for the Barwon Downs borefield to focus wholly on the remediation of the past impacts of water pumping.
“The process for developing and implementing a remediation plan has been progressing well as we continue to partner with independent technical experts and the remediation working group made up of community members and representatives from local agencies and environmental groups.”
The PCV also includes provision for a small quantity of water per year to be used for pump testing and maintenance – and access for emergencies can also be facilitated.
Ms Neville said setting the limit at just two per cent of what was originally permitted to be taken from the area ensured the environment was being protected and the groundwater could recover.
She said the Labor Government had invested in the Melbourne-Geelong pipeline, which along with other Barwon Water initiatives would ensure water security for the region.