2018 – The Challenges of Increasing Public Use and Expectations around Dams

Martina Cusack

Across Australia, recreation usage around dams is growing rapidly. There is also increasing public expectation around the facilities provided and the activities that can be undertaken.
While dams create many benefits, they also have inherent risks associated with them. The risks associated with public access include public and staff safety, water quality, pollution, environmental degradation, bushfires, water availability, dam & power generation operations, and financial.
In 2016 the Victorian government released “Water for Victoria”, a strategy for managing increasingly valued water resources and a growing population. This strategy recognises the importance of recreational enjoyment of waterways and commits water corporations to continuing to maintain infrastructure and facilities to support recreational objectives at their water storages. Water for Victoria also commits water corporations to consider recreational user objectives in the way water storage and supply is managed. However, this must be within legislative requirements to meet the needs of water entitlement holders and with awareness of the realities of dry conditions and climate change.

For the last 10 years, Goulburn Murray Water has been progressively rolling out Land & on Water Management Plans and setting up Land & on Water Implementation Committees. These committees provide a forum for liaison with local government, other statutory authorities, as well as interested environmental, heritage, indigenous, commercial and recreation groups. The groups aim to understand the concerns and requirements of all parties, take appropriate action, which may involve educating communities where some of their desired actions are not achievable.
While this approach has been successful, the growth in social media and the emergence of groups outside of the Land & on Water process has meant that consultation has had to be extended to include self-identifying, special interest groups. This has involved the development of separate groups at Dartmouth and Lake Eppalock to educate and work through the issue at hand, developing appropriate actions, which are accepted and implemented by all parties.

This paper will review the Goulburn Murray Water Land & on Water process, and consider two cases studies, namely the “Save Lake Eppalock” community driven campaign and the provision of fishing access on Dartmouth regulating pondage.

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