WATER security for Wangaratta is the goal of a $1 million study announced yesterday.
It aims to stop the district running out of water in drought or running down the drain during flood.
The Water Security for Wangaratta Project study is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
Ground water could be an option for drought-proofing the area, which relies on the water storages of Lake Buffalo and Lake William Hovell.
These dams hold just 12 months’ supply if water entitlements held by landowners and water corporations are used.
Water Minister Peter Walsh said in Wangaratta yesterday the original idea was to spend $500,000 to look solely at water security for the city.
“The scope of the project has been expanded to look at the wider Wangaratta district and the opportunities for industry and agriculture in the study as well,” he said.
Mr Walsh said the importance of water security was in maximising the region’s economic development.
Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy said a separate study on surface and ground water found there was a reliable supply of ground water in the region, stemming from deep aquifiers.
“The (project) will take this recent study into consideration as it looks at all possible opportunities for improving water supplies in the region,” he said.
A steering committee comprised of Wangaratta Council, water users and Victorian Farmers Federation representatives will carry out the study.
Technical support will be provided by catchment management authorities, water corporations and government departments.
Mr Walsh said he was optimistic the project would come up with feasible alternative water supplies.
“What we’re looking for is advice back from that committee as to what’s the best way to provide increased security of water supply,” he said.
“The history is that back near the end of the 12-year drought Wangaratta city nearly ran out of water — six months later they were being flooded out.”
Mr Walsh said a similar study had been funded covering a region in Gippsland.
In that area, the unreliability of water supply meant growers lost a crop every fifth year.
“The reason this one hasn’t been started until now was that we’ve wanted to get a better understanding of what was happening out of the Murray Darling Basin plan before we started the work,” he said.
The study has been funded through the federal government’s $1 billion growth fund.