Glenelg River to stop flowing this summer

The Hamilton Spectator – October 15, 2015

THE Glenelg River’s upper sections are “quite likely” to stop flowing this summer and create impacts for the environment, agriculture and recreation users.

Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority chief executive Kevin Wood blamed “record low” rainfall for the likely river flow stoppage and said his organisation had reserves of water to help with its environmental responsibilities.

“We have experienced quite low rainfall,” he said.

“The last 12 months have seen record low

The State Government has also been provided with a water ‘snapshot’ report that predicts that the Glenelg and Wimmera rivers will likely stop flowing.

Wannon Water managing director Andrew Jeffers said any lack of Glenelg River water flow would not affect local customers and Hamilton’s reserves were more than double the predicted usage.

“Hamilton system customers are supplied with water from a very secure supply system sourced from streams in the southern Grampians catchment,” he said.

“If required during times of drought, Wannon Water also has an annual entitlement to 2,120 megalitres of water in Rocklands Reservoir, which can be transferred via the Hamilton- Grampians Pipeline to top up Hamilton storages.

“Wannon Water’s Rocklands Reservoir entitlement is also a source of water supply for Balmoral. Currently, Rocklands Reservoir is holding more than 62,000 megalitres of water and in 2014/201515 Wannon Water extracted only 46 megalitres to supply water for Balmoral customers.”

Mr Wood said rainfall rates had been in decline since the 2010 flood and that Rocklands Reservoir has been reduced to 21 per cent of its target level.

In response to lower reservoir levels, GWMWater had released only one per cent of its normal allowance for environmental flows.

Mr Wood said GHCMA had nine gigalitres of water “saved from previous years” and 3000 megalitres could be used to replenish deep pools and deal with water quality issues.

“We will concentrate on maintaining areas of native fish so that we can repopulate other areas when rainfall replenishes them,” he said.

Low rainfall over the long term, combined with a number of recent days with high temperatures, has had a devastating effect on some crops in Victoria, particularly in the Mallee region.

Mr Wood said that fl ow stoppages in the Glenelg River would also affect farmers using the water for livestock and dam replenishment and dry rivers would no longer act as natural barriers for livestock.

“I would advise recreational users to be careful with swimming and boats as water hazards will present larger risk of injury because water level is so low,” he said.

The National Party last week targeted Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville in Parliament, ridiculing a plan to use the $4 billion Wonthaggi desalination plant to help ease water shortages in country Victoria.

“It is astonishing that such a proposal would even be raised as a concept, as there is simply no pipeline that can deliver water from Wonthaggi to western Victoria,” Lowan MP Emma Kealy said.

“The minister has had to hastily backtrack and clarify that she does not want to truck desalinated water hundreds of kilometres across the state.”

Ms Kealy also criticised “the transfer of 5000 megalitres of water into the system’s dried-out secondary storage in Toolondo Reservoir”.

“Farmers downstream on the Glenelg River would love to have this quantity of water available right now to boost a system under stress
after a dry winter,” she said.

“Instead this water appears to be being lost to evaporation, thanks to the water minister’s transfer of it to Toolondo.”

Ms Neville had earlier retaliated by saying that Labor governments had built Victoria’s ‘water grid’ while the Coalition had their “heads in the sand” and were “wasting taxpayers’ money at the Office of Living Victoria.”