Cr Claudia Haenel: Recreational water worth fighting for

Most conversations I’ve had with the community since being elected to Council have been around recreational water, or lack of it.

From the low levels at Green Lake, to the state of the Wimmera River around Horsham and the emptiness of Toolondo and Natimuk Lake, the topic of water is high on the conversation list.

Of greatest concern has been maintaining our population and keeping our young generation here. I am hearing that the lack of water to enjoy is a reason why it’s hard to keep our youth here.

Parents are telling me their children choose to build a life and family where there is adequate enjoyment of recreational water. Recreational water also attracts tourism and we hope those visitors will consider relocating here after their stay.

The most visited site in the magnificent Grampians/Gariwerd is McKenzie falls, the main water feature within the national park.

While HRCC puts aside funds for recreational water, whether there is enough to be allocated for our recreational lakes, is not ultimately up to Council.

Statutory water authorities control water allocation and whether there is any in reserve for recreational use.

We are all reliant on water. Whether for domestic purposes, industry or agriculture, we all need water. But in our drought-prone municipality and with drier than average rainfall, there is only so much to go around.

The rural sector has good practices, capturing rainfall from roof and infrastructure. But could we look at introducing a mandatory requirement for all new building approvals to capture domestic and industrial rainfall with tank capacity determined by roof area space, to supplement town water supply? It’s an option.

Add emerging industries like mining and other intensive water use practices to the future mix and we start to have serious impacts on our already limited supplies. The science is everywhere.

If anyone listened to Ross Garnaut on his visit to the Wimmera in recent years, data tells us it is only likely to get worse. As a community we must start having the conversations on sustainability and best practice for water usage. The perfect time is now with our community consultations.

I hope that we see a strong force of young people voicing their concerns for the future on the topic of water in our municipality.

Community also needs to keep the momentum going on opposing the possible merger of Wimmera Health Care Group with Ballarat Health Services. Let’s not drop the ball; keep the pressure on with letters direct to the WHCG board and state politicians.

One positive is that we have Horsham Aerodrome major upgrades underway allowing for more fly-in/fly-out services for medical specialists, making Wimmera Base Hospital accessible for health professionals anywhere in the country.

And just maybe, with vibrant recreational water features, those health professionals might also decide to stay and make Horsham Rural City their home. Let’s start having the conversations now.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.