Borefield monitoring review announced

Barwon Water is reviewing its monitoring program for the Barwon Downs borefield in the Otways.

The borefield is a crucial drought reserve for the regional communities of Geelong, Surf Coast, Bellarine and parts of the Golden Plains.

At the height of the recent drought, the worst on record, the borefield provided up to 70% of Geelong's drinking water when storages plummeted to 14%

It has been switched off since 2010 and monitoring is showing underground water levels have been recovering at a steady rate since then.

The monitoring network currently consists of a series of bores and observation points that enable measurement of changes to the environment as a result of groundwater extraction.

While the network is extensive, it could be enhanced by installing additional monitoring facilities that would provide more comprehensive information on groundwater behaviour.

The first stage of providing better monitoring facilities involves some site inspections, which are being carried out by consultants SKM and Ecology Australia in April 2013. This will include inspecting bore sites and taking measurements at observation bores. Up to five field workers will be in the area during April.

The monitoring program review will include investigations into water quality, stream flows, ecosystems near the borefield and groundwater recharge rates.

The first stage of the review will help determine whether additional monitoring equipment is required to better understand groundwater processes.

The Barwon Downs community will be consulted and kept informed throughout the review. As part of the longer term engagement strategy, it is proposed to establish a Barwon Downs Community Reference Group.

No construction work on any additional monitoring assets will start before consultation with the reference group and the wider community.


Interesting facts about the Barwon Downs borefield

  • The aquifer at Barwon Downs from which water is drawn is estimated to hold more than 500,000 million litres. By comparison, Geelong's main storage at Wurdee Boluc has a capacity of 40,000 million litres.
  • The Barwon Downs borefield as been brought online only four times since 1980 when surface water supplies were very low due to drought.
  • Between April, 2006, and when pumping ceased in 2010, the borefield supplied 52,439 million litres to Geelong and surrounding towns. This was 43% of all water used over this period.
  • Unlike stock and domestic bores, which target shallow aquifers, the six production bores at Barwon Downs draw supplies from depths of up to 630 metres.
  • The Barwon Downs borefield is one of six options being considered for the Colac region. Research has shown Colac's supply will need to be augmented by 2017 to meet growth, climate variability and potential risks to current infrastructure.
  • Barwon Water operates the Barwon Downs borefield and undertakes monitoring under a licence issued by Southern Rural Water.
  • The current licence to operate the Barwon Downs borefield is due for renewal in 2019.

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