Using groundwater to supply the south-west’s drinking water instead of pumping from the Gellibrand River will be trialled under a plan to improve water security and river health.
The state government launched a new partnership group on Friday that would investigate the use of groundwater over summer to reduce pressure on the Gellibrand and improve its ecosystems.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville said the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Wannon Water and Southern Rural Water would work together on the project.
Ms Neville said the trial would determine if the use of groundwater led to improved flows and environmental benefits.
Landholders and community leaders will provide feedback on the project and recommended options, she said.
Ms Neville said it was hoped the project would also help maintain populations of river and estuary species such as blackfish, Otway spiny crayfish, black bream and estuary perch.
“Local communities depend on the health of the Gellibrand River – that’s why this trial aims to improve environmental health and secure water supplies for local towns,” she said.
“We can achieve shared benefits from healthy waterways – which is a key focus of Water for Victoria, the new state water plan.”
Wannon Water currently pumps water from the Gellibrand River at two locations near Carlisle River and Chapple Vale to supply urban water to Warrnambool and other towns including Camperdown, Terang, Koroit, Mortlake and Allansford.
The state government’s announcement follows a report prepared by Wannon Water in May that recommended reducing the dependence on river water extractions during the low-flow period, which occur in summer and autumn.
It instead recommended the use of high quality groundwater, sourced from either new or existing bores near the current river extraction sites.