The fight for water
By ANN-MARIE DAVIS
CAMPBELLS Forest and District Community Action Planning Group has been campaigning for a secure water supply to the district for almost 20 years.
As a community we are solely reliant on rainfall or water carting for all agricultural, stock and residential needs and the CFDCAPG is seeking access to one of the three available pipelines that are within close proximity.
The area had access to shallow groundwater supplies up until about 30 years ago but as annual rainfall declined so did this precious resource.
Access to deeper ground water has been explored unsuccessfully by many local farmers, with the results yielded poor in water quality and untreatable for agricultural use.
Campbells Forest and neighbouring districts, including Yarraberb, were within the scope of initial feasibility and planning for the East Loddon Pipeline but a reduction in project budget saw the finished pipeline fall just 5km short of connecting the community to a stock and domestic supply.
Our community has adapted to the changing conditions and now focuses on cropping, wool and fat lamb production and the farm infrastructure that was once home to intensive agricultural production now lies idle as a secure water supply remains elusive.
Economic development and jobs creation is an important challenge for Loddon and with the agriculture industry as our largest employer, a thriving industry throughout the shire is pivotal.
Access to water will play an important role in the Campbell’s Forest districts ability to use existing farm infrastructure to its full potential and explore opportunities for diversification, which will in turn lead to job creation and economic growth.
In recent years the CFDCAPG has been very active in its efforts to advocate for the community.
We have met with mayors, ward councillors and executive staff from local government and received in-principle support from Loddon Shire and City of Greater Bendigo.
We have also written too all relevant State and Federal MPs and met with many of them including the Deputy Prime Minister.
At the request of the state Minister for Water, we have met with Regional and divisional staff from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and senior representatives from Goulbourn Murray Water (GMW) Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water and Coliban Water.
We also raised the issue of Loddon not being drought declared in 2019-20, discovering that rainfall for the Bureau of Meteorology calculations for our shire are sourced from Bendigo Airport.
We wrote to the federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, to highlight the urgent need for a weather station to be located in our shire.
We understand that plans are now underway for this.
The CFDCAPG has held several community forums to inform and consult with all residents and landowners.
We conducted a survey to assess need and interest in access to a secure water supply.
We received responses from 88 households in the surrounding area which showed that over 18,500 hectares of land would benefit from the supply. We have since had contact from intensive farming businesses to our south also keen to be involved.
The needs of the community have previously been assessed in a number of feasibility studies but DELWP have advised that this information needs to be revisited to build a current business case to support investment in infrastructure. In our work with the water corporations,
Coliban Water estimated that this would be at an approximate cost of $60,000.
The group had commenced work to identify a grant to fund the necessary research but this has been delayed due to the impact of COVID19.
The CFDCAPG will meet again in the coming weeks to finalise its action plan for 2021.
Residents have prioritised water security as the most important goal in their Community
Plan 2018-28 and the CFDCAPG will continue to vigorously pursue a secure water supply on behalf of our community.
- Ann-Marie Davis is a local advocate for a water supply to Campbells Forest