Surf beach, Anglesea

Barwon Water is set to begin a review of the arrangement governing the use of the Anglesea borefield, to ensure that the borefield will continue to be used sustainably and effectively to supplement the region’s water supply during dry periods. 

The borefield, which consists of seven production bores across two sites, is a vast underground aquifer around 700m below the surface, stretching from the Otway foothills to the Southern Ocean.

Barwon Water operated the Anglesea borefield from 1 November 2019 until 30 June 2020 to supplement drinking water supplies during dry conditions, with the borefield currently in standby mode.

The bulk entitlement, which the Victorian Government issued to Barwon Water for operation of the borefield, stipulates the volume of water Barwon Water is permitted to extract.

It includes environmental triggers and an extensive monitoring and assessment program designed to protect groundwater dependent ecosystems.

This review is a requirement under the bulk entitlement. An updated groundwater model and more than a decade of environmental monitoring data will help inform the review.

Barwon Water General Manager of Planning, Delivery and Environment, Seamus Butcher, said a review of the bulk entitlement and Monitoring and Assessment Program (MAP) was due to be provided in 2024 – five years from the date that groundwater extraction recommenced.

“We switched on the Anglesea borefield, which draws water from the Lower Eastern View Formation, in November 2019. We used it to supplement drinking water supplies for the Geelong, Surf Coast, and Bellarine Peninsula region, following a record hot and dry start to that year and low water storage levels. We operated it until July 2020.

“We are strongly committed to the sustainable management of the Anglesea borefield and keeping the Anglesea community informed about its use.

“Our priority is to protect the environment while providing high quality, affordable drinking water to our customers.

“The bulk entitlement review is not about seeking to increase extraction volumes but rather helping to confirm how much water we can continue to take sustainably in the future if we need to meet demand in dry times when surface water storages are low. It will ensure that measures are in place for the protection of groundwater-dependent ecosystems into the future.”

Mr Butcher said the bulk entitlement review would include the review of all data collected during the monitoring program. This includes groundwater level and quality, surface water level flow and quality, vegetation, ecology, and more.

Mr Butcher said that while Barwon Water’s bulk entitlement review and Alcoa’s groundwater licence application were independent processes, the groundwater model used in the bulk entitlement review incorporated data from Barwon Water’s pumping test from the Lower Eastern View Formation, and Alcoa’s pumping test, which drew water from a different groundwater source – the Upper Eastern View Formation.

“Using all available information – as well as factoring in other groundwater users – will ensure our bulk entitlement review is as robust as possible.”

Mr Butcher said the existing monitoring program would be assessed to determine if any changes were needed to ensure Barwon Water meets its ongoing commitment to the protection of the natural environment.

A series of community conversations will take place as part of the review process, so community members can have their say before the bulk entitlement review report is finalised and submitted next year.

When scheduled, the events will be advertised on social media, in local media and on the Anglesea borefield webpage.

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