STAWELL - The Lake Lonsdale Action Group has raised new concerns over the water level at Lake Lonsdale, which it believes is having a detrimental impact on tourism throughout the region.
Action Group president, Ray Howard, said retaining a suitable level in Lake Lonsdale would become all the more important once underground mining operations at Stawell Gold Mines cease.
Mr Howard said a major point of concern from the group's point of view, was the fact that the Maximum Operating Level and decommissioning had significantly reduced the maximum capacity of water that can be held in major reservoirs, including Lonsdale.
"Lake Lonsdale's capacity has been reduced from 65,500 megalitres to 53,300 megalitres. This is a loss of 12,200 megalitres," Mr Howard said.
"Rocklands Reservoir's capacity has been reduced from 348,300 ML to 261,500 ML, a loss of 86,800 ML. Toolondo Reservoir's capacity has been reduced from 106,600 ML to 46,215 ML, a loss of 60,385 ML. Also with the recent decommissioning of Pine Lake (capacity of 62,000 ML), this equals a total storage loss of 221,382 ML. It seems we have not learnt from our recent drought."
Mr Howard has also disputed claims by GWMWater that too much evaporation occurs from Lonsdale.
He said more evaporation occurs at Lake Hindmarsh, where water from environmental flows ends up, than it does from Lonsdale.
"All water that flows down the Wimmera River, whether for natural or environmental flows, ends up in Lake Hindmarsh," he said.
"Figures obtained from the Rural Water Commission (now GWMWater) indicate that when full, Lake Hindmarsh has evaporation losses of 150,000 ML and a loss of 120,000 ML when half full.
"Our concern is why is Lake Lonsdale's environment being destroyed to put water into Lake Hindmarsh to evaporate?
"If we were genuinely concerned about our environment for our lakes and rivers, then we would manage our water to protect all environments. This is not happening. Why not?
"Every time the lake is drained it destroys the entire eco and environmental balance, which not only affects fish, but also the flora and fauna.
"A reply was recently received from our Water Minister Mr Walsh to a letter from a local resident, sent with his concerns for the draining of Lake Lonsdale. In his reply Minister Walsh states: 'The approved Storage Management Rules highlight that Lake Lonsdale has a large surface area compared to its depth and therefore is subject to very high evaporation losses compared to other storages in the Wimmera Mallee system. As such, throughout its history, it has always been one of the first storages from which water is released to supply entitlement holders. In this context the plan will need to ensure there is no significant impact on entitlement holders'.
"Where does the Minister get his facts from? What are the evaporation rates between Rocklands Reservoir (which has a much larger surface area than Lake Lonsdale) and lakes Lonsdale and Hindmarsh?
"What facts does he base his statement on? Also he states the impact on entitlement holders, what about the effect draining the Lake Lonsdale has on our community.
"Another concern is the Federal Government's Irrigation Buyback, It has been proposed that the conditions be that 28,000 ML of water is for environmental purposes for the Wimmera River.
"To that I ask two questions. Is this extra water on top of what is already allocated, if so, how much water is needed for sufficient environmental flows? Secondly where is the water going to be taken from? This needs urgent attention from our Water Minister."
Mr Howard said he believed tourism would become vital to Stawell, once the underground mining operations had ceased, but tourists would not be drawn to a lake without water.
"With the impending closure of the Stawell Gold Mine it is crucial to our communities future wellbeing and growth that we retain a suitable level of water in Lake Lonsdale to enable us to develop and promote our tourism for the region," Mr Howard said.
"Tourism is our largest industry and it creates many much needed jobs for our community. We are already feeling the effects of the forthcoming closure of the gold mine.
"It is time for all interested parties - GWMWater, Wimmera CMA, Northern Grampians Shire Council, Martang and the Lake Lonsdale Action Group, together with Water Minister Peter Walsh - to meet and work through a suitable arrangement for the future management of Lake Lonsdale that satisfies all parties.
"There is enough water and storages in our system to enable supplies of water for all our needs."