STAWELL - Northern Grampians Shire Council has supported the call by the Lake Lonsdale Action Group to stop draining water from the lake.
Council has agreed to advocate strongly for water to be retained in the lake, particularly given that rural and urban water customers might soon be hit with a $16 recreational charge.
Proposed to be introduced by GWM Water, the $16 charge aims to make water affordable to recreation lakes.
The charge is being proposed under GWMWater's 2013-18 Water Plan and would mean the cost of water to recreation lakes will be discounted from $48 a megalitre to $20 a megalitre.
Cr Kevin Erwin said should the charge be introduced, then it would be fair for council and the residents of Stawell and district, to expect water to be kept in Lake Lonsdale.
"Having gone through a big dry period, now we are seeing water taken away from our lakes and that is very sad," Cr Erwin said.
"I have always been an advocate for water to be kept in Lake Lonsdale and I think we should support the Lake Lonsdale Action Group in its endeavours to keep water in the lake for recreational purposes.
"It would be good to see the $16 recreation fee put to use in keeping water in lakes like Lonsdale.
"It should never be forgotten either that a lot of people down this way contributed a lot to the pipeline project and we pay our water bills and water rates the same as anywhere else, so we deserve more."
Cr Karen Hyslop said she was aware there was widespread support throughout the region for water to be kept in Lake Lonsdale.
"I have been approached by a lot of people wanting water to be kept in Lake Lonsdale," Cr Hyslop said.
"I think this council should be strong in advocating for water to be kept in the lake."
Mayor Cr Wayne Rice said the levy, if introduced, would cause concern for a lot of residents, particularly if they were not seeing a return for their money.
Cr Rice said residents in and around Stawell had clearly had enough of water constantly being taken from Lake Lonsdale and sent to other regions.
He said it was frustrating from the point of view of council and the shire's residents, that calls to keep water in Lake Lonsdale were falling on deaf ears.
"We are just not being heard," Cr Rice said.
"It has come to the point where some residents are considering paying their water bill, but not paying the $16 extra charge.
"There is an email getting around urging ratepayers to pay their water bill when it arrives, but boycott the additional fee and I can see where they are coming from.
"All they want is something in return."
Representatives from council raised their concerns with GWM Water and the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, together with Water Minister Peter Walsh, at a meeting in Horsham yesterday. The meeting was also attended by Lake Lonsdale Action Group president Ray Howard.
Mr Howard is also continuing his campaign on behalf of the Lake Lonsdale Action Group to ensure sufficient water is kept in Lake Lonsdale for the Easter tourism period.
Lonsdale is currently at just 25% of capacity compared with 72% at the same time last year.