Members of Parliament and the general public

Barwon Water wants to pump ground water out of the Gellibrand River Catchment (GRC). We MUST stop this as a matter of urgency for not only the sake of the people that live there and their livelihoods but for the long term survival of the native flora and fauna.

The GRC is north of Apollo and north west of Lorne. The Gellibrand River flows the length of the Otway Ranges just over the ridge from the Otway Fly and discharges into Bass Strait at Princetown near the Twelve Apostles.

In Barwon Downs, where Groundwater Pumping (GWP) has already occurred, acid sulphate soils have resulted, endangering the livelihoods of farmers by reducing their water for stock and crops. Sulfuric acid is formed and toxic levels of heavy metals are released into the surface and groundwater.

This toxic mix has killed entire ecosystems and the death of at least 3 platypus colonies. The dried out peat in the wetlands oxidise releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Peat wetlands that are present throughout the Gellibrand River Catchment in the Otways are under threat from groundwater pumping.

Another major concern with these wetlands being dried out is that once alight they can burn for years. Dried out peat is a potential firestorm waiting to ignite. Once alight and even when “apparently” put out, they can smoulder underground for decades. Smouldering fires can reignite without warning when the conditions are right. Groundwater is a critical element allowing streams and rivers to flow through the worst drought. The Otways and the bush NEEDS this water to survive. Pumping water out of the ground to supplement Geelong’s water supply is short sighted but politically expedient.

If the Otways die, either through lack of water and/or fire, then the millions of tourism dollars that come to Victoria every year will also die and with it all the tourist operators from Lorne to Princetown.

Please sign and forward the following petition to everyone you know to help put a stop to any further threat of Groundwater Pumping in the Otways. The fire risk is high enough without increasing it by taking the groundwater out of there. While we can’t control lightening strikes or firebugs, we can control how much moisture we leave in the soil to lessen the impact of fire. We know the tragedy fire can cause in the community.

If we are successful in stopping this test pump it will be a test case for GWP across the nation as its viability is already starting to be reassessed by the Federal Government and indeed worldwide.

For further info visit: www.otwaywater.org.au

Dear the Honorable Minister Tim Holding, Minister for Water,

I am writing to you to implore you to stop Barwon Water from undertaking a test pump of ground water in the Gellibrand River Catchment.

Not only is there sound, documented scientific evidence why this to be stopped, there hasn’t been an environmental impact study conducted in the area where Barwon Water propose to pump from. Barwon Water have failed in their obligations to follow due process and currently have many complaints regarding their groundwater extraction management. These are sufficient reasons alone for stop any groundwater pumping going ahead. In light of the tragic events that unfolded on February 7, 2009 in Kinglake and Marysville, what is to become of the Otways if the groundwater is taken from the soil?

This will create another enormous fire hazard for this state. With rising temperatures and drought, the soil will continue to heat up and without some moisture in the soil from the groundwater, it’s a firestorm waiting to happen. Added to this is the fact that much of the Otways’ wetlands contain large amounts of peat. When peat dries out not only does it release enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, it also poses a huge fire risk because once it burns, it can smoulder underground for decades, igniting fires without warning when the conditions are right.

Without this water, the livelihoods of the farmers are at stake because nothing can grow in the acid sulphate soils that result and stock can’t live without water. The liveability of those communities is at risk, not to mention whole eco-systems that will be wiped out along with entire platypus colonies (as happened from groundwater pumping in Boundary Creek at Barwon Downs). Don’t allow the best black fish population in Victoria to be decimated. Don’t allow the destruction of a highly lucrative tourism industry. If the Otways die, either through lack of water and/or fire, then the millions of tourism dollars that come to Victoria every year will also die and with it all the tourist operators from Lorne to Princetown.

As we saw in the recent fires in Kinglake and Marysville, even the most fire ready people were overcome with this tremendous force of nature and unfortunately many lost their lives. By taking water out of the Otways, it not only significantly increases the fire risk, but it endangers the livelihoods and the very lives of all of the people who live in those communities and anyone who has to fight a fire if, heaven forbid, if one was to start in that area.

I ask you to listen to the people of the Otways, review all of the evidence and STOP BARWON WATER NOW.

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The Save the Otways. No Groundwater Pumping. petition to Members of Parliament and the general public was written by Otway-Water and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.