LAST week’s story on ‘New Agricultural Precinct in Golden Plains’ drew a number of queries from readers; we posed some questions to Barwon and GPS on their behalf.
Below are questions posed to Barwon Water and the response from Carl Bicknell, General Manager Strategy and Planning.
How much of the water from the Moorabool River will this precinct ultimately use annually once it is fully developed?
This development will not result in Barwon Water harvesting any additional water from the Moorabool. When fully developed, the food production precinct could use up to 500 megalitres of water per year. The actual amount will depend on the number of businesses that connect to the system and the water used by each business.
How does the precinct development fit in with that commitment to the Moorabool River?
This development will not result in Barwon Water harvesting any additional water from the Moorabool. As water usage in the precinct increases, less water from the Moorabool catchment will be piped to Geelong. The Geelong water supply system is now linked to the state water grid via the Melbourne to Geelong pipeline (MGP), and can make up the reduction in water sourced from the Moorabool by increasing the volume of water from the MGP and other sources.
If such ‘low cost drinking water’ is now to be used to wash down piggeries and broiler farms where is Barwon Water looking to source drinking water to replace it?
Barwon Water has access to multiple water sources, including the Barwon, groundwater and supplies from the Thomson and Yarra catchments via the MGP.
Is that source going to be more expensive than water from the Moorabool River?
The Moorabool catchment provides one of Barwon Water’s lower cost sources of water.
If those sources will cost more how will this impact the water bills of ordinary Geelong families?
There will be no immediate cost impact on Barwon Water customers. Any variation in the cost of water from different sources is factored into the price, which is set in advance for periods of up to five years and also depends on the volume of water used. The corporation is committed to minimising cost-of-living pressures on customers and, in fact, there was a price decrease for average residential customers in 2015/2016. The corporation will continue to focus on customer affordability.
Was the growing volumes of water available from the Bannockburn Treatment Plant considered as a water source for this project? If not why not?
Recycled water from the Bannockburn water reclamation plant is not suitable for the intensive agricultural and food production activities being targeted by Golden Plains Shire for the precinct.
The Shire responded with:
Golden Plains Shire Council recently celebrated the completion of Stage One of the Golden Plains Food Production Precinct project in Lethbridge, marking the installation of an 18km water pipeline worth $11.78M (a joint funding effort between Council, Federal and State Governments and Barwon Water).
Agriculture is Golden Plains Shire’s largest industry sector. A detailed business case was developed to investigate ways Council could support intensive agriculture (for food security and economic development). An area west of Lethbridge was identified (the area now officially the Golden Plains Food Production Precinct) as having significant opportunities for the expansion and development of intensive agriculture. To support the development and expansion of poultry and other intensive agricultural activities within the Precinct, a town water pipeline was crucial. Recycled water from the Bannockburn Treatment Plant would significantly limit the types of intensive agriculture and food production activities that could operate from the Precinct. It was important the Precinct be developed to support a wide variety of agricultural pursuits – a town water supply is not only intrinsic in achieving this but will also enable $160M in economic output for the local economy and create hundreds of jobs over ten years.