Council seeks urgent investigation on ailing Anglesea River

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Surf Coast Shire Council has formally noted increasing community concerns about the health of Anglesea River, and wants urgent investigation into the impacts of historic and current groundwater extraction, land use and climate change on its catchment.

Council resolved at its 28 June meeting to call for hydrogeological modelling to properly explain the interaction between surface and groundwater in the catchment.

It will not support groundwater extraction unless it is proven to have no detrimental impact on the river and/or its catchment.

The calls will be included in Council’s formal submission to regulator Southern Rural Water in response to an Alcoa application for a six-month extension of its trial pumping groundwater from the Upper Eastern View Formation aquifer below the catchment.

The pumping trial extension would take extraction through to March 2023. Alcoa is using the water to partially fill the void left by its former Anglesea coal mine.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning data shows that Anglesea River flows have dropped to about 10 per cent of long-term averages, despite normal or higher rainfall years. Its water is constantly acidic, devoid of fish and there has been a dramatic increase in mosquito larvae.

“Anglesea River and catchment are of immense environmental, social and economic importance to our community and the failing state of the river is a deep concern for many people and to Council,” Anglesea Ward councillor Mike Bodsworth said.

“Last year the community established its long-term vision for the Surf Coast Shire, establishing its first principle – ‘protect, conserve and restore our natural environment’.

“We need a more comprehensive picture of the factors influencing the river’s decline before important decisions are made about the use of water in the catchment.

“This is a complex issue and we need expert analysis of the impact of historical groundwater extraction.”

Council’s submission also calls for:

  • Respectful engagement with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners.
  • Consideration of any relevant lessons from groundwater extraction causing acidification at Barwon Downs borefield.
  • The findings from hydrogeological research to be shared with the Anglesea community.
  • Anglesea community to be involved in development of an Anglesea River and Catchment Recovery Plan, including environmental goals and how they might be achieved.

Multiple acid events and fish kills have been recorded in Anglesea River across decades and low water flow is affecting the function and health of its estuary.

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