Modelling the social and economic value of river flows in Geelong

This project examined the social and economic value that the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers provide to the community of Geelong, and the importance of river flows for supporting and protecting these values.

The Barwon River in Victoria is one of Geelong’s most significant natural assets. However, it has been experiencing declining flows due to the impacts of climate change and growing regional demand.

Declining flows contribute to reduced water quality in the lower Barwon; increased frequency and severity of blue-green algal outbreaks; and threatens minimum water depths required for popular river-based events like rowing.

Until recently, the full impacts of reduced water flows in the Barwon River – particularly in terms of the social and economic impacts for Geelong – were not fully understood. As the manager for the Barwon River through Geelong, the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CMA) commissioned an independent study by RMCG in partnership with HARC, focused on the lower Barwon and Moorabool Rivers near the Geelong Ring Road to the lower barrages at Reedy Lake.

Rowing at Barwon River

About this project

The aim of the study was to:

1. Model a range of climate and water recovery scenarios on river flows in the lower Barwon and Moorabool Rivers.

Several scenarios were considered where different volumes of recovered water would be delivered along the Leigh/ Yarrowee, Barwon and Moorabool Rivers. These scenarios measured the impact of additional water on river flows, depth and water quality in the lower Moorabool and Barwon Rivers, including the expected likelihood of algal blooms. 

2. Examine the social and economic benefits from a flowing Barwon River through Geelong and lower Moorabool River.

A quantitative economic analysis was developed to estimate the use and value of the river, and its impact and benefits under each water recovery scenario. The analysis incorporated climate change, population growth and community behaviour assumptions.

While flow studies traditionally focus on ecological values, this study combined hydrological and water quality modelling with comprehensive economic modelling to determine the socio-economic value of a major urban waterway and its river flows for the community. It also examined the impact of additional river flows on these values over time.

This study has informed policy development through the Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy and has helped to secure additional flows for the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers.

Click here to read the report.

Find out more about work in waterways and water for the environment and economics.


Trent Wallis

Trent Wallis


BSc, MEnvSt, GDipPD(EnvSt)

Trent has an extensive background in environmental planning and natural resource management, with particular expertise in waterway management and planning. This includes 21 years of public sector experience working for catchment management authorities and the state government.

Trent’s work focuses on strategic environmental policy, planning and evaluation, and supporting project teams with the delivery of long-term catchment health outcomes. He is also experienced in community and stakeholder management, and has a strong understanding of the importance of genuine engagement to ensure project buy-in and support. He has worked with, and led, integrated project teams, stakeholder and community project committees, forums and working groups, and technical expert groups.

Tristan Wardley

Tristan Wardley

Senior Consultant

B.Ag.Sci. (Hons)

Tristan is an experienced economics consultant at RMCG. He has worked across the agriculture and horticulture industries and has experience in natural resource management. Tristan is experienced in business and financial planning and decision analysis.

He has a thorough understanding of business structural change, specialising in micro-economic investment and production decisions, with a particular interest and skill set in risk analysis. His experience within the agricultural industry through private and public forums has given him the opportunity to contribute to progressive agricultural research.

Tristan has a developed commercial, operational and strategic skill set, and a deep understanding of sustainable and profitable business models.  He has extensive experience in stakeholder engagement and understands the range of factors influencing a business owner’s needs, risks and aspirations.


Rebecca Schwarzman

Rebecca Schwarzman

Senior Consultant

B.Sci. (Hons)

Bec is a skilled geographer and environmental scientist with a background in water, natural resource management and regional development.

She has made important contributions to catchment and water management, salinity, compost use in agriculture and bushfire planning and management at RMCG. She works on projects with a focus on strategic planning, program evaluation and social and environmental research, primarily for government agencies.

Bec has well developed project management skills and has a practical and resourceful style. She is a highly capable writer and problem solver.