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Hydrology Research Terms of Reference

PROGRAM FOR HYDROLOGICAL RESEARCH INTO THE IMPACT OF TIMBER HARVESTING ON WATER QUALITY AND YIELD IN THE OTWAY RANGES

There is public concern about the potential impacts of timber harvesting on water quality and yield in the forested catchments of the Otway Ranges.

In response to these concerns, the Victorian Government has committed to a project that examines hydrological research into the impacts of timber harvesting on water quality and yield in the Otway Ranges. This project was announced at the time of signing the West Victoria Regional Forest Agreement in March this year.

Some previous research has been conducted elsewhere in Victoria, Tasmania and in southern New South Wales that partly addresses this issue, particularly in relation to water yield. It will be important to understand the findings of this research as it relates to the Otway Ranges. It is likely, however, that gaps exist in the current knowledge and, depending on the nature of these gaps, further research may be required.

It is therefore proposed that the following tasks be undertaken by an independent group of consultants with expertise in hydrological research:

  1. Review the existing knowledge and research findings in relation to the impact of timber harvesting on water quality and yield, particularly as it relates to forested catchments, with particular application to the Otway forests. If sufficient data are available for analysis, compare these impacts with those of other land uses such as softwood plantations and cleared agricultural land.

  2. Review the current demands for water from the forested Otway catchments in relation to the volume of useable water available in each catchment and current storage capacity.

  3. Comment on the existing measures in place in the Otway forests to minimise any adverse impacts of land management activities, including timber harvesting, on water quality and quantity. An assessment of wildfire risk and the measures currently in place to protect the Otway forests from wildfire should also be considered, given that a major fire event could drastically alter the forest structure and therefore impact adversely on water quality and yield.

  4. Identify any gaps in the knowledge base and advise the Government on the nature of future research that would enhance our knowledge of these issues, particularly in relation to the forested catchments of the Otway Ranges.

The consultant will need to discuss the issues surrounding the concerns raised by the community with a wide range of people and organisations. These include: water authorities; catchment management authorities; municipalities; land mangers; industry groups; conservation groups, and; other community representatives, both in the Otway region and in the areas that are supplied with water from the Otway forests, such as the City of Geelong and other regional centres.

Otway Hydrology Research

Terms of Reference

The consultant will prepare a draft report for the Government that is to be submitted by 30 September 2000. A final report is to be submitted by 31 October 2000.

Any subsequent research project will be overseen by the Otways Hydrology Reference Group that will discuss the findings of the report and provide advice to the Minister for Environment and Conservation. The Reference Group will also oversee the development of the research that fills the identified knowledge gaps in relation to the impact of timber harvesting on water quality and quantity in the Otway Ranges.

The brief for the research program is to be finalised by 31 January 2001.

It is proposed that a group of hydrologists, including members from the CRC for Catchment Hydrology, Melbourne University and the Forest Science Centre, provide advice on the proposed research to the Reference Group. This approach will ensure that the consultants conducting Stage 1 of the project work closely with the scientists who will assist in the development and implementation of Stage 2.

Some issues to be considered:

Suspension of logging in all domestic catchments while hydrology research is being conducted

Expanding the research to include issues relating to the impact of roading on the incidence of landslips in the Otways

Conduct of research on all domestic catchments in the 0/ways.

It is proposed that these issues be addressed by the Reference Group when it is developing the brief for the Stage 2 Research. At that point, the key gaps in information will be identified and the nature of the additional research to be undertaken will be clarified.

An independent committee to oversee the research program.

It is proposed that an independent committee (referred to as the Otways Hydrology Reference Group above) comprise members from NRE, Barwon Water, the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, South West Water, water users from Geelong and Warrnambool, OREN, SWEAG, and GCF. Industry groups and the CFMEU would also need to be involved and an indigenous representative. If plantations and cleared agricultural land are being considered, it will be necessary to include representatives from these constituencies.

It is proposed that the Reference Group be supported by a Project Manager funded by the Victorian Government.

The timeframe for Stage 1 of the project.

It is proposed that Stage I of the Research Project be completed by 31 October 2000. It is important that the first stage be completed so that any arrangements relating to the coming harvesting season can be addressed.