Toolondo community concerned about drying reservoir

TOOLONDO residents believe their community is dying as water levels in Toolondo Reservoir continue to drop.

They have called on the State Government to save their community and the tens of thousands of trout in the reservoir.

Resident Carmel Officer said the lack of water was killing the district.

"We are asking for only 5000 megalitres of water, just to get us through the summer," she said.

"We need the water to sustain our community."

Toolondo Reservoir has been highlighted in fishing magazines and TV programs as one of the best spots for trout fishing in Australia.

"The number of fishermen it brought to the community was fantastic," Mrs Officer said.

"Now people can't get their boats in the water.

"The visitors benefit the wider community - fishermen have to buy bait, food, ice, petrol."

Rotting

The smell of rotting weeds and fish is now starting to permeate the community.

The reservoir is at 29 per cent capacity.

"It's at a critical point now -  if we have another week of hot weather, it will be too late," Mrs Officer said.

"We have to be realistic - we don't want to rob Peter to give to Paul, we are just asking for a bit of water from Rocklands Reservoir to top it up.

"It would only drop Rocklands by about three centimetres.

"Then hopefully we get a normal rain year, which will put enough water back in Rocklands to reach the trigger point and water will flow back to Toolondo."

Mrs Officer said if water reached a certain level at Rocklands, flows would start coming into Toolondo.

"It's like having a bucket with a hole in it though," she said.

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries' Victorian Waterway Management Strategy outlines the department's responsibilities for drying lakes.

The department’s policy on recreational lakes says the State Government is committed to maintaining or improving the environmental condition of waterways to enhance native fish populations and recreational fishing opportunities.

“They aren’t even doing what their own guidelines say,” Mrs Officer said.

“Water was rarely mismanaged during the drought and when the pipeline went in, it was meant to be saving us so much water – but where is it?”

The community is also concerned about the fire risk.

 “Fire prevention is a big issue. If we don’t have water here – we are on our own,” Mrs Officer said.

Residents Maggie and Hugh Smith have lived at Toolondo all their lives.

“There used to be 20 to 30 cars here every weekend without fail – now there are only ever one or two,” Mrs Smith said. 

Mr Smith said the reservoir was known as one of the best impoundments in Australia for trout fishing.

“I would like someone to estimate how much money is brought into Horsham and the Wimmera because of Toolondo alone,” he said. 

Operating rules

GWMWater customer relations manager Helen Friend said all transfers between the bulk water supply reservoirs, including Toolondo, were done in accordance with operating rules approved by Water Minister Peter Walsh.

“Under the operating rules, there needs to be at least 116 gigalitres of water in Rocklands to allow a transfer to Toolondo to occur,” she said.

“The 116 gigalitres trigger in Rocklands was reached between August and early November.”

Mrs Friend said at that time, Toolondo needed another seven gigalitres of water to reach 2012 levels, but no more than three gigalitres could have been delivered without breaking the operating rules.

“This small supply could not be justified as an efficient use of water compared to retaining water in Rocklands to help the security of all entitlements,” she said.

“Further useful inflows did not eventuate and after other commitments were delivered Rocklands was back below the trigger and a supply to Toolondo cannot occur.”

Toolondo is not the only community short of water, with Lake Hindmarsh, Lake Batyo Catyo and the Richardson River also at critical points.

In a letter to the Mail-TimesDonald resident Bob Robertson said the Richardson River was an environmental disaster.

The Toolondo community has created a Facebook page, Toolondo Reservoir, and also started a petition.

Resident Trixie Sampson said the petition would be sent to the State Government.

She said the petition could be viewed at www.change.org.

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