Barwon Downs borefield licence renewal

Over the past 30 years, the Barwon Downs borefield was a crucial back-up supply source for the greater Geelong region during times of drought.

In 2007, at the height of the worst drought on record, the Geelong region was placed on Stage 4 water restrictions with water storages dropping to just 14%. During this time, the only available back up source was Barwon Downs. It was used heavily during this period, at times supplying above 70% of Geelong’s daily water requirements. Without the use of the borefield during this time, Geelong would have, almost certainly, run out of reticulated water.

Since then large scale projects like the Melbourne to Geelong Pipeline and the Anglesea borefield have been implemented to diversify and increase our water resources to be more resilient to climate variability. The Barwon Downs borefield was last used in 2016 for a brief period to top up storage levels during a record dry summer period.

Barwon Water submitted an application to renew the Barwon Downs licence in late 2018.

In March 2019, Barwon Water withdrew our application to renew the licence to focus fully on improving environmental outcomes for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp (Yeodene Peat Swamp), so that confirmed impacts resulting from the historical management of groundwater extraction from the Barwon Downs Borefield could be addressed.

Licence application withdrawn

In December 2018, Barwon Water submitted a groundwater licence renewal application for the Barwon Downs borefield to Southern Rural Water.

The application was made in accordance with section 58 of the Water Act 1989. Despite no requirement to access the borefield in the immediate future, Barwon Water sought to secure access to this crucial resource for ongoing water security and affordability, while balancing the equally important needs of the environment. The application had been developed over many years based on a comprehensive scientific monitoring program and rigorous technical studies with deep and genuine continued stakeholder and community engagement.

In March 2019, we announced the decision to withdraw the application, to focus fully on remediation efforts for Boundary Creek and Big Swamp) so that confirmed impacts resulting from the historical management of groundwater extraction from the Barwon Downs Borefield could be addressed. Further investigations into surrounding areas will also be undertaken as part of the Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and surrounding environment – remediation and environmental protection plan to verify whether other areas within the regional groundwater system have been impacted by historical management of groundwater extraction from the Barwon Downs Borefield.

For more information on the plan:

Ongoing monitoring and reporting

Although the licence to extract groundwater from the Barwon Downs borefield has expired, Barwon Water will continue to monitor and report on the groundwater system to inform implementation of the Boundary Creek, Big Swamp and Surrounding Environment Remediation and Environmental Protection Plan.

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