15 April, 2012

Branching out - Bungal Dam

The last stage of Wednesday's Lal Lal excursion was to have a closer look at Bungal Dam. By this stage we were fast running out of time and then spent much of that attempting to navigate along winding gravel roads with limited signage. The GPS spent half its time with no signal and the other half being as confused as we were. Big help!
We did however manage to get there in the end and with only a few minutes to spare, grabbed a couple of quick pics and headed for home. This means of course that I did not have a chance to follow the service track which appeared to lead down closer to the dam's edge or to look at any of the infrastructure including the dam wall itself or the water tower which I glimpsed from the bottom of the road.
Lal Lal Reservoir from Bungal Dam Access Road, April 2012

All of that will have to wait for a future visit - preferably in a 4WD if I have to negotiate Bungal Dam Access Road again! For now I will have to make do with a few photos of sparkling blue water lying between eucalypt and pine covered hills and a little internet research.
The Lal Lal Reservoir or Bungal Dam as it is known has quite a reputation to live up to. As I described in an earlier post, the local indigenous population were the Tooloora Baluk clan of the Wathaurong tribe. They, along with the Kulin nation of indigenous peoples believe that the creator spirit Bundjil - an eagle - made his home at Lal Lal Falls. It was Bundjil who created the kangaroos, emus and all the animals of the earth. He created the first humans at Kirrit Barreet (Black Hill) a now extinct volcanic peak to the north east and once finished he created the Lal Lal Falls to relieve the monotony of the landscape - apparently even Wathaurong deities were aware of the limited scenic opportunities of livng on a basalt plain.
Basalt rock piles on plains near Bannockburn
Not surprisingly, when European settlers arrived, they also discovered the limitations of a basalt plain. I have heard it said that the crop that grows best on these plains is rocks and there are certainly a lot of them. The early settlers used them to make dry stone walls and as they cleared the land for farming, they placed the left overs in piles which still dot the landscape in these areas.
Basalt rock pile near Bannockburn
But, back to Lal Lal and its dam. It is of course from the spirit Bundjil, that Bungal Dam takes its name. The dam itself is an earth and rockfill construction, 49m in height which can hold upto 60 million cubic metres of water. The rock used to fill the dam wall was - not surprisingly - locally quarried basalt.
Construction of the dam was first considered following the drought of 1967-8 when the West Moorabool Water Board was established to oversee the project. Construction was started in February, 1970 by Premier Henry Bolte and was completed by 1972 at a cost of $5 million. It was officially opened on 24th November, 1972 by the newly appointed Premier Rupert Hamer. The water it contains is mostly used to supply Ballarat who draw about two thirds of their water from the reservoir. The remaining portion supplies about one third of Geelong's water requirements.
View of Lal Lal Reservoir looking east from the Moorabool Falls walking track
The West Moorabool Water Board was disbanded in 1995 and the reservoir is now jointly managed by Central Highlands Water and Barwon Water.
Water levels in the reservoir currently stand at around 93% full, however during the most recent drought which did not end until 2010, water levels reached critical levels which not surprisingly affected water quality. It also had a significant impact on the health of the Moorabool River below the reservoir, resulting in this river being declared one of the most stressed in Victoria. Since the breaking of the drought in the winter of 2010, things have improved, however the Moorabool below the dam still requires the release of "environmental flows" to support and improve the condition of the river and its environs.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Jo, for another informative insight into our Moorabool River.