irrigation system

Victorian utility Barwon Water has published its 2022 Annual Water Outlook, outlining the region’s current storage and supply, as well as plans for long-term water security. 

Barwon Water Managing Director Tracey Slatter, said that water storage levels were at nearly 100 per cent for the start of summer, the highest in more than 27 years.

It means the likelihood of restrictions in the Geelong, Golden Plains, Bellarine and Surf Coast supply system is rated as “very rare”.

“West Barwon Reservoir, home to the region’s main catchment located in the Otways, spilled again this year, while Lal Lal Reservoir, in the Moorabool catchment also spilled for the third year in a row,” Ms Slatter said. 

The Colac, Lorne and Apollo Bay water storages are all close to full.

Ms Slatter said that the storage levels and recent wet weather should be considered in the context of longer-term modelling, which predicts an increasingly hotter and drier climate in the region. 

Despite storages being in good shape coming into summer, it remains important that everyone follows the state’s permanent water saving rules, which are in place to ensure Victorians use water sustainably.

“We know that while storages are at healthy levels now, the situation can change quickly. During the 2015-2016 El Niño and the hot dry start to 2019, we saw that water storages can draw down rapidly,” Ms Slatter said. 

“While it has been generally wet over the past 24 months in our region, historically we have seen a 28 per cent drop in average inflows at West Barwon Reservoir since 1997.”

Ms Slatter said that with the climate becoming warmer and drier, Barwon Water will no longer be able to rely on rainfall and groundwater alone to secure supplies.

“We will need to continue to be efficient with water, use recycled water and stormwater where it is fit for purpose and look to augment our water supply with climate independent sources,” Ms Slatter said. 

“These directions are outlined in Barwon Water’s Urban Water Strategy: Water for our Future.”

Ms Slatter said the long-term trend of hotter and drier conditions – coupled with population growth in the region – highlighted the importance of investments made during the Millennium Drought, including the Melbourne-Geelong pipeline which can be used to supplement supplies in dry times.

“While water supplies are secure for now, Barwon Water’s modelling shows that in the longer term, we may be unable to meet the needs of the Geelong, Golden Plains, Bellarine and Surf Coast system, which supplies over 90 per cent of our customers, by 2027,” Ms Slatter said. 

“This is why we have committed to 25 actions over the next five years through the Urban Water Strategy: Water for our Future.

“Extending the reach of the Melbourne-Geelong Pipeline by 2025 will defer the need for a large-scale water supply upgrade to 2032. This action will support our growing region, and allow for water to be returned to the flow-stressed Moorabool River for cultural values, to improve waterway health and to protect the native wildlife depending on our rivers.”

Actions will also see an increase in recycled water for productive use, and continuation of our sustainable water use programs for residential customers, businesses and schools.

Barwon Water said in partnership with the community, careful proactive planning and action is required now to ensure a thriving future for the region – socially, economically and environmentally.

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