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The enhancing urban water security, iconic urban waterways and recreational values of water initiative is contributing to:

  • offsetting the economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of urbanisation
  • population growth and climate change on declining urban water supplies
  • our recreational water environs and iconic urban waterways.

By enhancing urban water security, reducing the impacts of urban water discharges and better managing our recreational and iconic urban waterways, this work will contribute to the following:

  • cooler, greener cities and towns
  • affordable, accessible water
  • healthier water environments for our communities to use and enjoy.

Environmental contribution 5 (EC5)

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

Enhancing urban water security, iconic urban waterways and recreational water

17,257 22,121
Integrated water projects package of works N/A 6,270

Summary of progress to date of Environmental contribution 5

Iconic urban waterways program

The iconic urban waterways include the Birrarung (Yarra River), the Waterways of the West (Maribyrnong and Werribee catchments) and the Rivers of the Barwon. This initiative is implementing Action 3.1 in Chapter 3 of Water for Victoria. It is fulfilling the government's commitment to improve planning arrangements for urban waterways, and protect and improve the health of their catchments now and into the future.

During the first 2 years of EC5 the Yarra Strategic Plan Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo was completed and endorsed by:

The Yarra Strategic Plan, which came into operation on 24 February 2022 following approval by the Minister for Water, is the first of its kind.  The completion of Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo is an important step in realising the full effect of the Willip-gin Birrarung Murron (2017) legislation which recognises the Birrarung as a living entity and requires governance that empowers the Birrarung’s Traditional Owners and integrates across portfolios, agencies, community and landscape.

In November and December 2021, the Victorian Government released the Rivers of the Barwon (Barre Warre Yalluk) and Waterways of the West Action Plans were released.

The Action Plans were developed in response to the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committees for their respective regions. The Action Plans include immediate actions to be implemented in the first year of operation and longer-term actions to be implemented within the 5-year life of the plans, subject to funding availability.

They build on an existing policy base that emphasises the importance of:

  • liveable cities
  • protecting waterways
  • enhancing their associated parklands
  • as well as the importance of embedding Traditional Owners and their values, knowledge and culture in decision-making.

The plans include measures to protect the waterways and their parklands better so that these community assets will continue to be valued and enjoyed for years to come.

During the first year of Environmental Contribution 5, project funding was allocated to ensure agencies were prepared to implement the short-term actions in year one.

Significant projects underway in the Iconic Urban Waterways Program and funded through Environmental contribution 5 include:

Yarra Flats and Yering Billabongs

Priority projects in the Yarra Flats and Yering Billabongs area to support the delivery of the Yarra Strategy Plan.

Kitjarra-dja-bul bullarto langi-ut

Kitjarra-dja-bul bullarto langi-ut — the Barwon River Parklands Masterplan — to strategically consider waterway amenities, tourism economy, community wellbeing, elevate traditional owner values in planning, coordinate agency investment, evaluation, and facilitate the capture of more secure funding for capital investment.

Upper Barwon Flagship project

Upper Barwon Flagship project to improve waterway health and deliver robust long-term monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement processes.

Waterways of the West Action Plan

Feasibility, design and engagement projects to implement priority directions of the Waterways of the West Action Plan funded through the Iconic Urban Waterways grants program.

Better engagement with the CALD community

Funding and guidance to support community and agencies to better engage with the culturally and linguistically diverse community in Melbourne’s west, including school students around waterway values, connections and aspirations.

Partnering with Traditional Owners

The Iconic Urban Waterways Program has also provided resourcing and support for partnership with the region’s Traditional Owner groups to ensure their voices and aspirations are heard in planning for these Iconic Urban Waterways.

Integrated Water Management (IWM)

The Integrated Water Management Program was established by the Victorian Government in 2017 to promote collaborative planning and management of water, land and related services to maximise economic, social and ecological benefits to all Victorians.

The IWM program is delivering on Chapter 5 of Water for Victoria (Actions 5.7 and 5.8), which detail how community values and local opportunities are represented in planning as IWM is put into practice.

The IWM program, by working with the IWM Forums, has identified and prioritised IWM projects and enabling policies. The Forums and the department are working through the delivery of these priorities, with progress over the last 2 years including:

National Water Grid Authority funding

The successful applications for National Water Grid Authority funding for the development of several business cases and delivery of an on-ground project (Bellarine Recycled Water Project).

Embedding IWM in urban planning

Advancing policy work on embedding IWM in urban planning and identifying options for systemic funding of IWM.

Catchment Scale IWM plans for each Metropolitan Melbourne Forum

The completion and endorsement of Catchment Scale IWM plans for each Metropolitan Melbourne Forum, with the subsequent ongoing development of

  • Catchment Scale IWM Action Plans and
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement (MERI) Plan to support the IWM Forums collaboratively progress and track against delivery of the plans.

Five large-scale alternative water networks

The identification of 5 large-scale alternative water networks across the Greater Melbourne region warrants further investigation and the development of business cases.

Victorian Forums’ Strategic Directions Statements

The refresh and re-release of eight regional Victorian Forums’ Strategic Directions Statements. With one already published and the other 7 in the final endorsement stage.

These updated Strategic Direction Statements provide a progress report on the forum’s activity, describe its changing priorities, and identify future IWM opportunities.

Regional IWM Knowledge Hub

Development of a Regional IWM Knowledge Hub that is being actively used by regional Forums to facilitate collaboration and share knowledge such as case studies, guidelines and learning materials.

Regionally based IWM Officer positions

The development and initiation of co-funded, regionally based IWM Officer positions will help overcome the practical challenges and barriers to implementing IWM in regional Victoria.

One IWM Officer has been employed, 2 are currently being recruited and a further 2 positions are being negotiated.

Grants program

Our grants program now includes a dedicated, non-competitive, flexible funding stream for Traditional Owner Groups. This stream was adopted in 2021 in acknowledgement of the structural inequity and barriers that government systems can create for Traditional Owners, and with the aim of supporting self-determination and leadership of Traditional Owner Groups in the IWM space.

Strengthening partnerships

The program has continued strengthening partnerships, capacity building and collaboration with local government, Traditional Owners, urban planning partners and the water sector.

It facilitated the delivery of multiple IWM Forum meetings, workshops, and working group meetings across Victoria over the last 2 years to enable collaborative IWM planning at a range of scales.

Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS)

Work supported through the IWM program’s first 2 EC5 years has also complemented the development of the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS). A key area of the program’s focus in this strategy was enhancing the use of stormwater, recycled water and rainwater to support growing cities, towns and agricultural regions while mitigating harmful discharges to the environment.

Significant policy work to support the integration of water-related liveability outcomes in land use planning decisions has resulted from this work and will continue in subsequent EC5 years.

COVID-19 building works stimulus package

During the first year of EC5, the program oversaw a package of 8 IWM capital works projects across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria valued at $10.68 million.

These projects include:

  • the installation of a recycled water irrigation system at a new community farm in Whittlesea
  • construction of stormwater harvesting systems in Narre Warren and Sunshine North
  • ecological restoration of creek line in Essendon and Gunbower
  • construction of a natural playpark, all-access fishing jetty and educational wetland boardwalks.

In addition to assisting Victoria’s economic recovery by supporting over 60 jobs. These projects contribute to decreasing our potable water use, improving the health of our waterways, creating green spaces for our communities and increasing Victoria’s drought resilience.

Werribee Zoo Recycled Water Initiative

The IWM program also oversaw the Werribee Zoo Recycled Water Initiative, which was funded through reallocating $2 million from EC4 as part of the COVID-19 Building Works Stimulus Package.

This two-phase project will substantially expand the recycled water supply network in the southern area of the Werribee catchment.

Phase 1 is currently under construction and will supply more than 450 ML of recycled water for irrigation of Werribee Open Range Zoo and other parks and recreational spaces in the area.

Boosting water security

In the second year of EC5, the program commenced a 3-year, $14.1 million grant program focusing on boosting water security by co-investing in priority projects identified in Melbourne and across regional Victoria.

The first competitive round received over 60 applications. Of these, 28 were recommended and have secured funding. Combined, these projects are expected to:

  • save an estimated 350 ML/yr potable water
  • irrigate 21 community green spaces with stormwater or recycled water
  • revegetate 16 km2 of land along waterways
  • improve the quality of more than 900 ML/yr of stormwater before re-use or discharge into waterways.

To secure our capacity for future capital works, 12 feasibility and planning projects were funded in this round.

A second competitive round for regional Victoria has received 37 submissions currently being assessed for funding.

In addition to the competitive streams, the grant program also includes a dedicated non-competitive, flexible funding stream for Traditional Owner Groups. Acknowledging the structural inequity and barriers that government systems can create, this stream aims to support self-determination and leadership of Traditional Owner Groups in the IWM space.

To date 2 successful submissions have been received and we anticipate more before applications close in September 2022.

Recycled water and stormwater policy

The Recycled Water and Stormwater Policy program is delivering on Chapter 5 of Water for Victoria (actions 5.1 and 5.5). These actions are fulfilling the government’s commitment to use diverse water sources to achieve secure water supplies, and to improve stormwater management for greener environments and healthier waterways.

In the second year of EC5 the program has led detailed work to incorporate opportunities to make the best use of all sources of water, into the draft Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy and in the development of the final Strategy due to be released in late 2022.

Several projects were advanced during the period to facilitate safe and suitable use of recycled water including working closely with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and other key stakeholders on the following projects:

  • updating EPA’s Guidelines for wastewater irrigation (Publication 168) to help irrigators to use recycled water appropriately and ensure controls are in place to protect the environment and human and animal health
  • developing guidelines for the use of recycled water for the environment to improve environmental flows and overall river health
  • developing template guidance for recycled water use to help industry apply and adjust to the new Victorian recycled water guidelines.

Funding was also provided to EPA to assist with the following emerging contaminant projects in 2022/23:

  • To develop guidance on priority emerging contaminants in recycled water to help scheme proponents and users to assess and manage potential risks associated with these contaminants
  • Targeted analysis and ground-truthing of a select number of emerging contaminants in soil and plants irrigated with recycled water
  • Derivation of recycled water irrigation guideline values for a small number of priority emerging contaminants.

In 2021, the Victorian Auditor General’s Office performance audit on the supply and use of recycled water confirmed that the sector is effectively developing and implementing strategies to increase recycled water use and actively engaging with the community to understand risks and opportunities for recycled water.

The program progressed several stormwater and rainwater initiatives.

Introducing higher water efficiency requirements

Preparation for a regulatory impact statement on the costs and benefits of introducing higher water efficiency requirements and improving and extending the current rainwater tank requirement for new homes to a broader range of developments is underway.

Improving tank maintenance

The department commissioned work to develop initial options to improve tank maintenance in late 2021. This work and other research on tank functionality has been compiled into a draft discussion paper to inform workshops scheduled to develop and assess options to improve long-term tank functionality.

Training sessions were delivered in September 2021 and April 2022 supporting industry on the 2018 amendments to the Victoria Planning Provisions (VC154).

Online Navigator Tool Resource Portal

In 2021, we published an Online Navigator Tool Resource Portal, providing step-by-step guidance for planning system users to ensure their sub-division, buildings, and works development meets Victoria’s stormwater planning requirements. The Tool received a highly commended award at the 2022 Stormwater Victoria Awards.

Urban stormwater management guidance

EPA issued its final urban stormwater management guidance in July 2021.

Melbourne Urban Stormwater Institutional Arrangements (MUSIA) project

In late 2021, the Melbourne Urban Stormwater Institutional Arrangements (MUSIA) project reached a preferred option in principle to clarify the roles and responsibilities for a range of stormwater assets and services between Melbourne Water and 38 councils in the Port Phillip and Westernport catchments.

Since then, further engagement and initial implementation work have commenced.

Case studies of stormwater harvesting scheme

Case studies of stormwater harvesting scheme were used to assess whether improvements can be made to the licensing and entitlement framework to facilitate better stormwater harvesting.

The case studies uncovered several issues or ambiguities and a project aimed at resolving these has since commenced.

Recreational values program

The Recreational values program has been delivering on the Victorian Government’s commitment to recognise the recreational value of water in the way our water storages and waterways are managed. These are articulated across the 3 actions in Chapter 7 of Water for Victoria:

Action 7.1: Include recreational values in water and waterway planning
Action 7.2: Help communities understand how to achieve their recreational objectives
Action 7.3: Support recreation at water storages through infrastructure and better information

During the first year of EC5 the program committed over $2.3 million towards 11 flagship projects to enhance recreation at 31 waterways across the state.

An additional $546,000 has since been committed to 4 projects that align with the program's priorities. Delivered by Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) and water corporations, the projects will improve recreational access and facilities through on-ground works, provide better community information and demonstrate better water asset management to achieve recreational and social objectives.

The program has continued strengthening partnerships and capacity building between the department, the water sector (CMAs, water corporations and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder) and related government portfolios to achieve greater collaboration, inform decision-making and leverage investment to achieve social and recreational objectives.

The program has clarified expectations and created better linkages across the water sector (water corporations (WCs), catchment management authorities (CMAs) and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH)) to incorporate recreational values and objectives in water and waterway planning.

  • The Water and Catchments Amendment Act 2019 enshrined the consideration of social and recreational values in waterway management into law for the first time across Victoria.
  • Social and recreational uses and values are required to be considered in specific water planning processes under the Water Act, including in the development of sustainable water strategies and regional waterway strategies

In addition, the program team:

  • Have incorporated the consideration of social and recreational uses and values in the Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy
  • Reviewed water agency corporate planning and reporting documents, with 30 organisations now meeting benchmarks to provide information on recreation in their Corporate Plans and Annual Reports.
  • Is working closely with Water Corporations to develop new Recreational Area regulations in 2023

The program funds various projects to support this action. Recent highlights include:

Community consultation

Running a 7 week community consultation process through Engage Victoria to help inform the future management of Greens Lake, Corop.

Recreational access to waterways

Supported technical investigations and analysis to support evidence-based decision-making about recreational access to waterways, including the Wimmera Southern Mallee Socio-Economic Value of Recreational Water Study, assessing the economic and social contribution made by the local weirs, lakes and rivers to the regional economy.

Wannon Water Recreation Opportunities Strategy

Funded Wannon Water Recreation Opportunities Strategy which outlines potential options to increase public access to more of its sites in Southwest Victoria for recreational use

Car counters

Car counters have been installed at 39 sites across the Goulburn Murray region at various water storages. This will accurately inform Goulburn Murray Water of visitor numbers to their storages, which will help plan appropriate investment.

Cultural heritage evaluation and monitoring

Funded the Taungurung Land & Waters Council to undertake cultural heritage evaluation and monitoring at the Corop Wetlands over the next 3 years.

My Victorian Waterway survey

Co-funded the second My Victorian Waterway survey, which was conducted in March and April 2022 and attracted over 6,000 responses. The survey will build on data collected in a previous My Victorian Waterway Survey (2009) to identify trends in waterway use, perceptions, and knowledge over time.

The program partners with delivery agencies to complete projects that support recreation at waterways and water storages across Victoria.

Over the next 2 years:

Improving visitor access and experience

Visitor access and experience will be greatly improved in the Lower Thomson and Latrobe Wetlands through landscaping, path construction, boating, and rowing access.

Amenity and recreational upgrades

Various amenity and recreational upgrades will be completed at Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water managed storages, including Taylors Lake, Lake Lonsdale and Rocklands Reservoir.

Promoting and celebrating Wadawurrung culture

  • Interpretative signage promoting and celebrating Wadawurrung culture and art has been installed at Lal Lal Reservoir. Additional signs will be installed at Wurdee Boluc Reservoir, Upper Stony Creek No.1 Reservoir, Bostock Reservoir and Bolwarra Weir.

Improve recreational access, facilities and visitor experience.

Six iconic waterbodies across the State have had targeted on-ground works to improve recreational access, facilities and visitor experience.

A new pedestrian and cycle access bridge

  • On Moonee Ponds Creek, a new pedestrian and cycle access bridge was completed in May 2022, linking Brunswick West to Essendon, creating a new commuter route and supporting local connection to nature. A community planting day held by Merri-bek City Council was held in July 2022, hosting approximately 60 community attendees and councillors from both Moonee Valley and Merri-bek City Councils.

New access for fishing and boat launching

  • At Werribee River Park, rock terraces will provide new access for fishing and boat launching on the lower Werribee River to be completed by end of October 2022. In addition to improvements to the adjacent River Red Gums walk and the production of a Water Recreation Plan for the lower Werribee river.

Effluent flowmeters

  • Effluent flowmeters will be installed at 8 different sites at the popular Lake Eppalock to help monitor and manage wastewater at the site.

All-abilities BBQ and a picnic shelter

  • A new all-abilities BBQ and picnic shelter will be built at Waranga Basin’s recreational embankment area, due to be completed by August 2022.

Increasing the community’s connection to the waterway

On the Merri River, the refurbishment of old and installation of new walking paths, new canoe launches, and community seating benches will increase the community’s connection to the waterway.

Enhancing Jamieson’s community connection to the river.

Large mudstone rocks will be installed on the Jamieson River to create a river access path, enhancing the Jamieson township community’s connection to the river. This will be complemented by planting native trees and grasses to help support local biodiversity and protect against riverbank erosion.

Page last updated: 08/09/23