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This initiative plays an important role in putting in place long-term strategic plans and processes to ensure water security and improved resilience of the water sector for Victoria’s future.

It delivers on key actions in Water for Victoria, including legislative and policy reforms to improve:

  • strategic water planning and management
  • sustainability and resilience of Victoria’s water sector
  • improved reporting, monitoring and evaluation of EC investments to provide robust, evidence-based planning for water supply investment decisions and to address the impacts of water extraction on the environment and communities.

Environmental contribution 5 (EC5)

Program title 2020–21 expenditure ($'000) 2021–22
expenditure ($'000)
2022–23 expenditure ($'000)

Building a sustainable water sector

Phase one implementation of the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water StrategyN/AN/A29,149

Long-term water security

This project aims to promote the sustainable management of water by developing a long-term, coordinated approach for improving water security across Victoria, including reforms to the water planning and management frameworks for the water sector and embracing new and innovative methods of service delivery and knowledge sharing.

Framework reforms contribute to the sustainable management of our finite water supplies under pressures of drought, climate change and rapid population growth, as well as provide robust, evidence-based planning for water supply investment decisions.

Since initial EC5 funding was allocated in 2020, the government’s climate action ambition has accelerated. In 2022, the Minister for Water directed the water sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2035, and the state’s net zero emissions target was brought forward to 2045.

The impacts of climate change have also been keenly felt by the water system, with our Black Summer of bushfires over 2019–20 and then floods of state significance in 2022. The need for investment in community and environmental resilience to the cascading and compounding impacts of climate change has increased.

Victorian desalination plant order

Robust advice is provided each year to support the Minister for Water to make decisions about how much desalinated water to order for the year ahead to secure Melbourne’s water supply for our growing population. Advice is provided in March each year based on the following considerations:

  • the current water storage conditions
  • projected water demands
  • future climate conditions
  • risk of system spill
  • the balance between securing supply and keeping bills stable.

Urban water strategies

Urban water strategy guidelines were updated and released to urban water corporations in March 2021. Assessment of the urban water strategies against the guidelines ensures a coordinated approach to planning for the next 50 years of urban water security across the state, while clearly identifying actions over the next 5 years.

All urban water strategies, including the Greater Melbourne Urban Water & System Strategy were finalised and submitted to the Minister for Water in 2022. The final strategies can be accessed from each respective water corporation’s website.

Circular economy and adaptation action for the water sector

The department jointly-established the Water Sector Circular Economy Working Group in 2021. Members include water corporations, catchment management authorities (CMAs), cross-government portfolios, and water-industry bodies. Using a collective impact model, the working group aims to share learnings and supporting capacity building for circular economy opportunities.

The Water Sector Circular Economy Action Plan was developed in 2022, identifying key priorities to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy within the Victorian water sector.

The Water Cycle Adaptation Action Plan (WCAAP) was released in 2022, as was a new Statement of Obligations (Emission Reduction). The statement commits Victorian water corporations to net zero emissions by 2035.

Together, these initiatives promote innovation and learning across the water cycle system that accelerates low-carbon adoption and progress Victoria’s transition to a circular economy.

Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy

Sustainable water strategies are long-term plans required under the Water Act 1989 to secure the water future of Victoria’s regions.

The strategies identify and manage threats to the supply and quality of a region’s water resources and identify ways to improve waterway health.

The Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (CGRSWS) was finalised in response to public and stakeholder feedback and was released in September 2022.

The strategy outlines priorities for saving water and investing in more manufactured water supplies to meet water needs, and to free up river water to return to the environment and Traditional Owners.

Collaborative planning process

Delivered a collaborative planning process with water corporations, CMAs, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, Registered Aboriginal Parties in the region and other government departments to prepare the CGRSWS discussion draft. This addressed section 22C requirements of the Water Act 1989, including responding to the findings of the 2020 Long-Term Water Resource Assessment for southern Victoria.

Public consultation

Met the requirements of section 22D(e) of the Water Act 1989 by undertaking an 8-week public consultation process on the CGRSWS discussion draft. Due to COVID restrictions, the community were provided with a myriad of ways to engage online, including community information sessions, webinars, a virtual consultation room and tailored forums with environmental groups and irrigators. There was a lot of interest from the community, with well over 2,000 people visiting the engagement sites, 225 people responding to a short survey and 58 detailed submissions.

Met the requirements of section 22F of the Water Act 1989, with an independent panel considering feedback provided through public consultation and reporting to the Minister.

Incorporated feedback received from stakeholders and the community during public consultation into the final CGRSWS.

Final CGRSWS and implementation

Alongside the public release of the CGRSWS in September 2022, an accompanying Central and Gippsland Region Implementation Plan was published. The Traditional Owner Partnership – that enshrined a self-determined approach in the way SWSs are developed and delivered in the region – has continued into the implementation phase.

Funding was provided in state Budget 2022-23 and State Budget 2023-24 to support implementation of priority work following the CGRSWS. As this work aligns to other programs, the deliverables are covered on their related EC5 webpages.

The first CGRSWS Progress Report confirmed that 79 of 96 actions have started, and 9 actions have already been completed.

Mitigating the risks of small dams

This project is improving the long-term resilience and safety of Local Government Authority (LGA) owned and managed small dams, and making the recreational areas and public amenities safer for the community to enjoy.

It also provides the government with a level of assurance that these structures are managed according to current standards and practices, improving emergency preparedness and response and thereby reducing the burden on emergency agencies. The project also addresses the cost of living pressures through reduced risk of future liability for LGAs in relation to their dams, and, therefore, any future impacts to ratepayers.

The current program provides grant funding as contributions to Central Goldfields Shire Council, Frankston City Council and Latrobe City Council to upgrade Goldfields dam, Baxter Park dam and Traralgon Railway Reserve large dam projects.

  • All 3 projects commenced early this year and will be completed on 30 June 2024.
  • All 3 LGAs have engaged dam consultants for the projects.
  • Approximately 40% of the project work has been completed.

Murray-Darling Basin inter-jurisdictional strategy and negotiations and MER

Victoria is implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and monitoring the outcomes achieved so far.

Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council did not meet in 2021-22 and priority issues were progressed as far as possible through departmental level committees , particularly Basin Officials Committee.

WCG drought response coordination

The project Evaluation of DELWP drought response (2018-2021) contributes to the state’s strategic planning and management framework for the water sector to continue to meet the ongoing challenges of climate change.

The project sought to improve drought preparedness and response across the sector by reviewing the DELWP/WCG drought response package (2018-2021) against WCG Drought Framework principles. This work is essential to identify necessary refinements in the department's preparedness and response policy to future droughts.

In year one of environmental contribution 5 (EC5) of the DELWP Drought Response (2018-21), a comprehensive program evaluation was successfully delivered.

Key evaluation findings will be implemented and include:

  • The evaluation confirmed the Department’s drought response was delivered in alignment to the WCG Drought Preparedness and Response Framework and was found to be operating quite efficiently despite the lack of documented procedures and processes in place, with the culture and collaborative nature of staff at the Department being the key driver to this success.
  • Develop a drought escalation process flow chart to provide staff with a step-by-step guide on how to deliver the Drought Programs.
  • Create a central repository for information related to drought escalation periods to increase the efficiency of knowledge transfer to new staff, use learnings from previous drought escalation periods and support program evaluations for continuous improvement.
  • Have a resource dedicated to implementing the recommendations from evaluations of drought escalation periods, and to review readiness of activities and processes each quarter during non-drought periods.

Oversight of Water for Victoria and Environmental Contribution

The objective of this project is to continue the delivery of Water for Victoria Action 10.13 by overseeing the implementation of initiatives funded by the Environmental Contribution, tracking delivery of Water for Victoria and monitoring, evaluating and reporting on progress and achievements.

The project continues to provide oversight of the Environmental Contribution and delivery of Water for Victoria through:

  • Supporting effective governance of EC funded initiatives through the EC Project Control Board.
  • Coordinating development of business cases, project implementation plans and evaluation plans for EC funded initiatives, to support project delivery and enable effective and transparent monitoring and evaluation of outcomes.
  • Providing timely and transparent reporting on project expenditure and outcomes to the Victorian community, through EC initiative progress reporting, and publication of Water for Victoria Action Status Reports.
  • Developing the strategic investment framework for a potential future EC funding cycle, alongside evaluation of EC5 initiatives (both initiative evaluations and an independent evaluation of EC5 overall).

Page last updated: 15/11/23