STAWELL - Northern Grampians Shire Council will continue to pressure authorities to ensure sufficient water is maintained in Lake Lonsdale for the rest of the summer.
Councillors raised concerns at the latest meeting regarding the draining of water from Lonsdale for the purposes of environmental flows into the Wimmera River.
Flows have now ceased, but the water level is well below what it was at at the same time last year and without any decent rain, council is concerned that the lake will be allowed to go dry once again.
Council was adamant there was sufficient water in other lakes across the region that could be utilised for environmental flows and for the 'topping up' of other reservoirs when necessary.
Discussing reports relating to the future management of Lake Batyo Catyo in St Arnaud, the focus quickly turned towards Lonsdale, particularly as councillors expressed their concerns over the fact so much water was drained from the lake during November and December.
The report, presented by council's Acting Director Marketing and Community Development, Jim Nolan, advised that Lake Lonsdale was currently at 30% of its full capacity.
The lake holds 15,730 megalitres of water, but is capable of holding 53,300 megalitres. At this time last year, Lonsdale had reached 77% of its capacity, holding 41,515 megalitres in storage.
Councillors were advised that water had been flowing from Lonsdale throughout November and December into the channel system, while Lake Bellfield held more than 70,000 megalitres in storage (90% of its capacity) and Lake Fyans remained steady at 72% holding 13,260 megalitres.
Mr Nolan said in the case of Lonsdale, the 'percent full' represents a percentage of the Maximum Operating Level. The actual volume in the lake is considerably less in terms of a comparison with the lake's full supply level.
"Assuming ongoing evaporation losses over the summer and no significant inflows, these water levels are significantly less than what council has previously advocated for and foreshadow diminished recreational values by next Easter," Mr Nolan said.
"While it is understood that low rainfall during the spring months has been the major factor in the reduced water levels, it is important that council continues its advocacy on this matter with the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority.
"The access to recreation and in particular recreation water is considered to be very important by many within the community who have traditionally used lakes across the shire for recreation for many years."
Cr Kevin Erwin said the Lake Lonsdale Action Group was very active in lobbying for water levels to be maintained, but it was obvious support from other sources was needed.
"At the moment there is about half the water that was in Lonsdale this time last year," Cr Erwin said.
"Unfortunately, all the water that is used for environmental flows comes out of Lonsdale, even when other lakes can and should be used."
Cr Paul Russell agreed that water should be taken from other lakes and that GWM Water and the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority should not always rely on supplies from Lake Lonsdale.
"It always seems to be the case where we are catching the water and then feeding it off to other areas," he said.
"All our water seems to go into the river system to help others, even though it is leaving us short for summer."
Mayor, Cr Wayne Rice said not having sufficient water in Lake Lonsdale had the potential to cost the Northern Grampians Shire millions of dollars in tourism over the summer months.
"We all know the importance of having a waterway in our shire," he said.
"We particularly saw that during the drought period when there wasn't enough water around.
"We have a right to sufficient water levels here in the Northern Grampians, just as much as the people up further north.
"It is vital for the economy of our communities that water remains in Lake Lonsdale throughout the summer."