Barwon Water chair Jo Plummer, Water Minister Lisa Neville and Barwon Water CEO Tracey Slatter yesterday announced that the authority would withdraw an application to use groundwater from Barwon Downs.

Barwon Water will withdraw its controversial licence renewal application to pump groundwater at Barwon Downs, after a community campaign against the licence.

The water authority said yesterday that it would focus on completing environmental remediation of the historical impacts of groundwater pumping in the area before it applied to renew its Barwon Downs borefield licence with Southern Rural Water.

Barwon Water chair Jo Plummer told the Colac Herald yesterday that the water authority’s board of directors had decided to withdraw the submission to eliminate community confusion and demonstrate Barwon Water’s commitment to restoring the area.

Ms Plummer said that although the authority no longer needed the borefield for water security in the short term, Barwon Water had seen applying for the licence renewal as a way to preserve entitlement for future water security following the remediation.

“The board felt that it was really confusing for the community to understand why we would be applying for a licence while we were still going through the early stages of the remediation process, and to remove that confusion we thought it was just better to just take it off the table,” she said.

Barwon Water had previously pumped groundwater from the aquifer at Barwon Downs as a backup water supply for Geelong, but halted pumping in 2016 following concerns from environmental and community groups as well as the State Government, and it had committed to not resuming pumping until remediation was complete.

Barwon Water has previously confirmed its past groundwater pumping at Barwon Downs has contributed to acid water released from Yeodene’s Big Swamp into Boundary Creek and is also the main cause of a reduced base flow in the creek.

Southern Rural Water received more than 900 submissions from community members, environmental groups, and shire councils during its public submission period for the licence application, but Ms Plummer said she was not surprised by the community’s response.

“It’s a great response from the community and it shows how passionate and dedicated they are, and we are aligned with their passion around the environment and we are very, very pleased we have come to a positive outcome that is going to suit all parties,” she said.

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