Stop logging Melbourne water catchments

Logging in Armstrong Creek catchment, visible from Reefton Spur Rd
Logging in Armstrong Creek catchment, visible from Reefton Spur Rd

Logging is still allowed in five of Melbourne’s water catchments. This logging has been scientifically proven to reduce the quality and quantity of water from the catchments.

Melbourne’s water supply comes from uninhabited Mountain Ash (Eucalytpus regnans) forests in the Yarra Ranges. Approximately 157,000 hectares of forest has been protected for harvesting water and these reserves are managed by Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Sign stating Armstrong Creek catchment is protected
Sign stating Armstrong Creek catchment is protected
Melbourne water catchments
Melbourne water catchments

Around 12% of the total catchment is available for logging and 340 hectares can be harvested each year. Currently clear felling occurs in five of the water catchments:

  • Thomson
  • Starvation Creek
  • McMahons Creek
  • Armstrong Catchment
  • Cement Creek.
Thomson catchment showing logged areas
Thomson catchment showing logged areas

These catchments supply approximately 40% of Melbourne’s water supply.

During the 2006-2007 over a 12 month period a total of 6,250 hectares of native forests was logged across Victoria. 93 hectares of this total area was in designated water catchments.

Council motions to stop logging in catchments

The City of < City name > does not support logging in Melbourne water catchments.

Council recognises that:

  1. Logging has a dramatic and detrimental effect on water quality and yield in catchments.
  2. Young re-growth trees need more water to grow thus releasing less water into catchments.
  3. Logging reduces stream flow and yields to water catchments.
  4. It takes 150 years for water yields to return to their pre logged status.
  5. It is poor water policy to continue to log our water catchments.
  6. Logging of water catchments adversely affects water quality through increasing sediment as does road construction through logging coupes.

We urge the Victorian State government to consider a policy of no logging in water catchments.

Boroondara Council motion

Boroondara council supported the following motion on 23 June 2008. Councillor Dick Menting of Maling Ward was the only one who voted against the motion.

“That Council write to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Gavin Jennings MLC, advising of Council’s opposition to continued logging in native forests within Melbourne’s water supply catchments.”

  • Source: Agenda – City of Boroondara, June 23, 2008.
  • Council Officer’s report: Agenda Part 2 – City of Boroondara

Councils who have opposed logging in Melbourne’s water catchments

  • Yarra Ranges
  • Bayside City
  • Moreland City
  • City of Port Phillip
  • Whitehorse City
  • Knox City
  • Yarra City
  • City of Kingston
  • Melbourne City
  • Maroondah City
  • City of Boroondara
  • Nillumbik

These councils collectively represent more than 1.3 million residents.

The politics of allowing logging in Melbourne catchments

In 1999, John Brumby, then leader of the Labor opposition, stated clearly that logging in water catchments and native forests should cease. Now as Premier of the Labor government in Victoria elected in 2006, John Brumby is happy for this logging to continue. Despite the majority of Melbourne residents wanting this logging to stop, it appears that some union interests (such as the CFMEU) and industry interests (such as Paperlynx in the Latrobe Valley), are the reasons that the government won’t take action to stop it.

Water loss from logging in catchments

The amount of water lost due to logging, taking into account recent rainfall patterns, has been scientifically estimated by government researchers at 15 GL of water per annum.

“The modelling estimates that the maximum water yield that could be generated if the ten year average low rainfall pattern continues is 15 GL of water per annum at 2050 if timber harvesting were stopped during 2009/10.”[1]

Based on the latest Victorian government water usage targets of 155 litres per person per day[2] , the 16 gigalitres of water lost due to catchment logging is equivalent to the water used by 560,000 people per year (or 280,000 households).

The science of water loss from catchment logging

Annual water yield versus forest age (Kuczera Curve) from Watson et al. (1999)
Annual water yield versus forest age (Kuczera Curve) from Watson et al. (1999)

The water supply of the city of Melbourne is sourced from mountainous forests to the city’s northeast. These forests, which are 50% occupied by the eucalypt species Mountain Ash, yield more water when the forests are older than about 50 to 100 years. This is because evapotranspiration (ET) from older forests is lower per unit area than from younger forests.

The Kuczera curve predicts a decline in water yield immediately after clearing, leading to a minimum at about 20 to 30 years, followed thereafter by a gradual rise back toward ‘old-growth’ water yield at about 100 years of age.[3]

Warburton rally protesting against logging in catchments, November 23, 2008

Nicky Bomba leads the march, 2008 rally
Nicky Bomba leads the march, 2008 rally

About eight hundred people attended a community organised rally in Warburton to protest against logging in Melbourne’s water catchment.

Councillor Samantha Dunn from Yarra Ranges shire addressed the rally with this speech.

Other speakers included Mayor Tim Heenan, Luke Chamberlain, Tracey Bartram, Joy Wandin Murphy, Greg Barber (Greens MLC), Keith Sarah.

Local business owner and environmentalist Keith Sarah said, “Warburton has made the transition from timber town to sustainable community. Logging of water catchments is no longer an acceptable part of our vision for the future.”

See Stop logging Melbourne water catchments rally for more photos and videos.

Area of catchments logged compared to total native forest logging

Logging in Melbourne’s water catchments comprises less than 2% of the total hectares of Victorian native logged each year.

Areas for forest logged in hectares
Areas for forest logged in hectares


Mary Wooldridge MP speaking at an environment forum held at Melbourne Town Hall on 18 November 2010 during the Victorian state election campaign, about the importance of protecting forest that contains threatened species such as Leadbeaters Possum.

See also

External links


  1. Research Results for ‘Wood and Water’ project using the latest science to develop a future management plan for State Forests supplying water to Melbourne (PDF), retrieved from, August 3, 2008
  2. Tough new water limits, Paul Austin, The Age, November 24, 2008
  3. Predicting the water yield impacts of forest disturbance in the Maroondah and Thomson catchments using the macaque model, Technical Report, Cooperative Research Centre For Catchment Hydrology, Report 00/14, December 2000