Clearfell Logging in the Otway Forested Catchments - Water Yield and Water Quality Issues Otway Ranges Environment Network
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  • Logging of Otway forests dramatically decreases the water available to the region from Geelong, the Bellarine Penisula, Great Ocean Road, inland towns and Warrnambool.

  • For a long time there has been a debate about the effects of logging on water supply catchments. Despite continuing community concern over the impacts of logging and strong scientific evidence that logging reduces water yields, the new Victorian Labor Government signed a Regional Forest Agreement in March 2000 that contemplated an acceleration of the rate of logging in Geelong’s main water supply catchment

  • Due to an ALP election promise to conduct hydrology research, the State Government commissioned consultants, Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), to examine hydrology issues in the Otways Native Forest

  • The SKM report of December 2000 concluded that if logging in Otway native forest catchments was stopped, water yields would increase between 10% (for Geelong’s West Barwon catchment) and 28% (for sub-catchments within Warrnambool’s Gellibrand catchment).

  • For Geelongs water supply, a 10% gain in water runoff for the West Barwon catchment if logging was stopped translates into a gain of 170 billion litres over the next 100 years - enough water to supply the entire water needs of a town the size of Colac every year

  • For Warrnambool's water supply, logging threatens the reliability of the Gellibrand river summer flow. This is a big concern for the dairy industry.

  • OREN has conservatively valued the expected water losses in the West Barwon at $12 million (Net Present Value method). In comparison, the value of woodchips and sawn timber to be taken from the West Barwon is between $2 million and $9 million depending upon the method of valuation used.

  • Further, the loss of water due to logging adversely affects the whole community, whereas the value of woodchips and timber benefits only a few private interests

  • In addition to the loss of water, logging practices in the Otways are creating significant water quality issues, due particularly to the construction of logging roads in areas at risk of land slip.

  • The logical and inevitable conclusion is that all logging in Otway forested catchments should cease immediately. This precedent has already been set by Colac (which has a completely closed water supply catchment where logging is banned) and by Melbourne (90% of Melbourne’s water comes from catchments where logging is prohibited)

  • Finally, the hydrology issue raises serious questions about the stewardship of Otway native forests. The current forest manager (the Forestry Division of the DNRE) is so closely aligned to the interests of woodchippers and sawmillers that other forest values such as water have been compromised.
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