The Age: Otways logging starves Geelong of water, says report.
Monday 11 December 2000. Page 3
Water supplies to drought-affected cities and towns in Victoria's south-west would be boosted if logging was stopped in their Otway ranges catchments, a report to the State Government has found.
The confidential draft report said Geelong - where drought has forced three years of water restrictions - would eventually get a 10per cent boost to its water supply if logging ceased in its Otway catchments.
The report found water run-off would remain the same if logging went ahead as planned under the Commonwealth-state regional forest agreement signed in March this year. The Otways are being clearfelled, with roughly 70per cent of the wood destined to be chipped.
But if logging ceased, run-off from Geelong's main West Barwon catchment would begin rising within 10 years, yielding an extra 2670 megalitres a year by 2060. The extra water would be more than the annual consumption of Colac's 11,000 people.
"Allowing the forest to age with no logging, fire or other disturbance results in an increase in stream flow," the report, by consultants Sinclair Knight Merz, states.
It assumes no change in historical rainfall averages, but climate change is likely to make water scarcer and more valuable. Global modelling by the University of East Anglia in Britain predicts a drier, hotter climate in south-eastern Australia over the next century, with river flows falling 12 to 35per cent.
The report found run-off would also increase if logging stopped in Otways catchments supplying water to Warrnambool, a city of 27,000 whose consumption is rising as the dairy industry flourishes. A similar picture emerges for catchments supplying towns along the Great Ocean Road: demand is increasing in line with tourism.
A spokeswoman for Conservation and Environment Minister Sherryl Garbutt said yesterday that until the report was finalised "the comments are unsubstantiated and appear to be a distortion of the preliminary findings".
In March Ms Garbutt promised an independent analysis of logging and water yield in the Otways in the face of rising community opposition to the forest agreement. A final report is being prepared. Studies by the Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology in the mountain ash forests of eastern Victoria established that clearfell logging reduces run-off because young trees absorb more water than mature ones.
Logging is not permitted in catchments controlled by Melbourne Water, but clearfelling takes place every year in catchments controlled by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, including Melbourne's Thomson Dam.
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