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Long-term effects expected at Lake Cooper

The long-term effects of high saline water in Lake Cooper are cause for concern, a Corop farmer says.

ELAINE COONEY January 15, 2014 4:22am

Corop farmer and member of the Cornella Local Area Planning group Tait Hamilton is concerned about the long-term effects the high saline water in Lake Cooper could have on the lake and surrounding farmlands.

He said the evaporating water in the lake made it high in saline and believed the figure to be as high as 46,000 EC compared to 150 EC during its better years.

EC is a measure of electrical conductivity which is higher when more salts are present.

Mr Hamilton said the highly saline water in Lake Cooper would mean it could not be transferred to Greens Lake, which farmers used for irrigation.

It was also transferred to the lake for flood mitigation purposes and Mr Hamilton was worried that if the salinity levels were not controlled and the lake hit its maximum level, local farmers could face a flood risk if the water had no-where else to go.

He said if the water level at the lake continued to fall, the salinity levels would rise.

Goulburn-Murray Water general manager of catchment services Graeme Hannan said the organisation checked the salinity levels weekly and Lake Cooper’s level frequently fluctuated and was presently above stock drinking water standards.

He said Lake Cooper was not part of the Goulburn-Murray Water supply system, so it was not intentionally filled for any purpose.

“As it is dependent on Cornella Creek flows, Lake Cooper’s water levels cannot be secured,” he said.

Mr Hannan said Goulburn-Murray Water adhered to the Greens Lake operating rules when considering releases from Lake Cooper into Greens Lake for salinity mitigation purposes.

“At the moment the water level of Lake Cooper is too low to conduct such a release,” he said.

Mr Hamilton has been involved with the care of Lake Cooper for the past 20 years and is campaigning for the use of environmental flows from Lake Eildon to help with the salinity issue.

He said environmental flows to the lake would also support the nearby wetlands which were also drying up.

Mr Hamilton said there were enough identified environmental issues to be granted access to environmental water.

Mr Hannan said the decision to supply water for environmental purposes rested with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

“The Victorian Environmental Water Holder would assess the conditions, and should the holder feel an environmental supply is necessary, Goulburn-Murray Water would meet the request for supply,” he said.

Mr Hamilton said Goulburn-Murray Water had been supportive of the planning group and changes to the federal water policy were needed to make filling the lake easier.

He said the changes would need to allow for Lake Cooper to be used as a regulated water storage facility.

He said if any of the lakes user-groups were to buy in water it could cost up to $1.5 million.

Mr Hamilton said the lake had high salinity and high soil content in 1993 and a $3 million government grant allowed planting of native vegetation to prevent the soil slipping into the lake and also fences along the waterways to prevent the vegetation being eaten by stock.

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