Press Release: GARBUTT RELEASES OTWAY HYDROLOGICAL STUDY
Friday, 19 January 2001
The Minister for Environment and Conservation, Ms Sherryl Garbutt, today released an independent hydrological study of the Otway Ranges.
Ms Garbutt said the study showed that claims by some that the Geelong regionís water shortages could be solved by stopping logging were not backed up by facts.
"Early claims that there would be significant increases in water yield if logging was stopped were a distortion of the studyís findings," she said.
"The study found that such increases could only occur in water catchments totally undisturbed by any activity, including bushfires, and thatís just not going to happen.
"Itís a sure bet that these catchments will be disturbed by many activities Ė people, insect attack and certainly bushfires, which alone seriously reduce water yields."
Another key finding of the report was that the strict management controls imposed on logging by the West Victoria Regional Forest Agreement maintained both the quality and quantity of existing water supplies throughout western Victoria.
It also found that existing measures in place to minimise the impacts of logging in the Otway Ranges were Australian best practice.
The Otway Ranges Hydrological Study examined three scenarios Ė no disturbance, disturbance by logging and disturbance by bushfire - in three catchments in the Otway Ranges: the Greater Arkins, the west Barwon and the St George.
The study shows if catchments remain totally undisturbed, there will be increases in average annual water yields in the long term (not all of this can be caught in water storages as they routinely spill in average and high rainfall years).
However, the study also found that bushfires significantly reduce water yield. A fire that killed more than 50% of the catchment vegetation, for example, could result in a reduction in average water yield of up to 20 % between the years 2020 and 2040.
Ms Garbutt said that the Otway region had a history of bushfire, with five major fires in the past 100 years and 12 fires so far this summer and it was therefore inevitable that it would have major bushfires in the future.
"Catchments are highly unlikely to remain undisturbed and therefore the theoretical increases in water yield are a furphy," she said.
Ms Garbutt added that people in Geelong had been on water restrictions for nearly four years due to record drought - not logging.
For the 47 months up until the end of August 2000, the Otway region experienced the lowest rainfalls on record, resulting in low volumes of water in storage.
"Water reuse, adopting water conservation measures and reducing losses in the channels and pipes are surer ways of enhancing water supplies to the region" Ms Garbutt said.
"These findings reinforce the Bracks Governmentís commitment to achieving the right balance between conservation of our valuable forest resources and their sustainable utilisation."
A community-based reference group agreed to the Terms of Reference for the Otway Ranges Hydrological Study and guided the work of independent consultants, Sinclair Knight Merz.
The report is available on the NRE website, www.nre.vic.gov.au
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