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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)2022–23 expenditure ($'000)

Enhancing urban water security, iconic urban waterways and recreational water

13,567 22,121


Integrated water projects package of works 3,690 6,720720

Summary of progress to date of Environmental contribution 5

Iconic urban waterways program

The iconic urban waterways include the Yarra River / Birrarung, the Waterways of the West (Maribyrnong and Werribee catchments) and the Rivers of the Barwon / Barre Warre Yulluk. 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 Yarra River Protection / Willip-gin Birrarung Murron Act 2017, 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.

Work has progressed in year 3 to continue delivery on the actions in the plans. The success of these programs will be enhanced through the commitment of additional funds in 2022: $10m for the Green Links grant program included in State Budget 2023-24 (funded from EC5), and $3.15m to date in federal funding from the Australian Government’s $200m Urban Rivers and Catchments Program.

In late 2021, the government released the Rivers of the Barwon / Barre Warre Yalluk and Waterways of the West action plans.

The plans were developed in response to the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committees for their respective regions. The 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 EC5, 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 EC5 include:

Yarra Flats, Annulus Billabong and Yering Billabongs

At Annulus Billabong and Yarra Flats, improvement of wetland water regime to meet ecological watering objectives, improving ecosystem services, cultural and social values, and cultural values study to support Yering Billabongs project.

Lower Yarra floating wetlands

Installation of floating wetlands in the lower Birrarung delivered by City of Melbourne in 2023. The wetlands seek to restore habitat in this section of the river.

Kitjarra-dja-bul bullarto langi-ut

Kitjarra-dja-bul bullarto langi-ut — the Barwon River Parklands Masterplan — will strategically consider waterway amenities, tourism activation, community wellbeing, elevate Traditional Owner values in planning, while coordinating agency investment and evaluation to 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. This includes delivery of revegetation, willow and glyceria removal in the catchment and fencing out of livestock to improve and protect water quality and habitat.

Embedding community vision in action plans

The development of community visions for the Waterways of the West and Rivers of the Barwon / Barre Warre Yulluk Action Plans, using a deliberative engagement approach. For the Waterways of the West it involved the formation of community assemblies, with representation across age, gender and abilities. The team undertook some focussed work to ensure the inclusion of school age and culturally diverse community members could be incorporated into the Community Vision.

Better engagement with the CALD community

Funding and guidance to support community and agencies to better engage with the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community in Melbourne’s west, including school students around waterway values, connections and aspirations. The award-winning Waterways of the West CALD toolkit is designed to be widely applied, with uptake already from the public sector and community groups.

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. This includes supporting Traditional Owners’ input towards and approval of the Action Plans and Yarra Strategic Plan.

Support for the self-determined priorities of Traditional Owner groups to be reflected in regional catchment strategies for the Port Phillip and Western Port and Corangamite catchments.

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 Forum partners are working through the delivery of these priorities, with progress over the last 3 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 projects (Western Irrigation Network and the Bellarine Recycled Water Project).

Embedding IWM in urban planning and exploring systemic funding of IWM

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
  • a 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. These updated Strategic Direction Statements capture an update of the forum’s evolving priorities, and identify future IWM opportunities.

Regional IWM Knowledge Hub

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

IWM Officers in Traditional Owner groups or that are regionally-based

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

Recognising that IWM Officers are essential to enable Traditional Owners’ self-determined, effective participation in IWM Forum activities, the program has also started funding some roles with Traditional Owner groups.

Five IWM Officers have been employed, and one is currently being recruited and a further two 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 water corporations.

It facilitated the delivery of multiple IWM Forum meetings, workshops, and working group meetings across Victoria over the last 3 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 also complemented the development of the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (CGRSWS). 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 continues in subsequent years.

The 2022-23 State Budget committed funding that enables the department and partners to deliver on IWM commitments of the CGRSWS. This includes $31.729 million to co-invest in 18 IWM projects throughout the Central and Gippsland region, including the Dingley Recycled Water Scheme.

This funding will deliver an estimated 1,950 ML/year of alternative water from the 9 capital on-ground projects, plus support 9 feasibility studies, business cases or concept designs for alternative water projects and large-scale alternative water planning.

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 Strathmore/Oak Park 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. The system is expected to be online and operational by early 2024.

Boosting water security

In the second year of EC5, the program commenced a 3-year, $14.615 million IWM 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, 26 were recommended and have secured funding. A second competitive round for regional Victoria received 37 submissions, of which 12 were recommended for funding.

Combined, these projects are expected to:

  • save an estimated 657 ML/yr of potable water
  • irrigate 254 community green spaces with stormwater or recycled water
  • activate more than 900 ML/yr of stormwater or recycled water for re-use
  • improve the quality of our waterways by reducing the amount of nitrogen (5,407 kg/yr), phosphorous (299 kg/yr) and total suspended solids (683 tn/yr) that enters our rivers and streams

In addition to the competitive streams, the grant program included 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. 12 projects are funded through this stream since 2022.

To continue to secure our capacity for future capital works, 31 feasibility and planning projects were funded through this program.

Recycled water, stormwater and onsite wastewater policy

The recycled water, stormwater and onsite wastewater policy program is delivering on Chapter 5 of Water for Victoria (actions 5.1, 5.3 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.

The first 2 years of the program also included detailed work to incorporate opportunities to make the best use of all sources of water, into the CGRSWS.

Several projects are underway 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 irrigation with recycled water (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 Stormwater 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 has been promoted extensively – and used by – the broader industry, with the Tool recognised with 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. The CGRSWS included Action 3-13, committing to an implementation of MUSIA. Melbourne Water and the Municipal Association of Victoria are leading implementation, including more detailed engagement with councils. The department continues to support on an as needed basis, and will embed the confirmed approach into policy or legislation.

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.

In conjunction with EPA, the program also continued to address reform and support needs for on-site domestic wastewater management.

Updated EPA guidance on the contents of a domestic wastewater plan

The 2005 domestic wastewater plan model was reviewed, with the department developing a framework to evaluate the level of risk associated with (proposed and existing) onsite wastewater management systems, as well as to identify management strategies.

The review findings and framework were provided to EPA so they could develop new guidelines for developing, reviewing and updating local government onsite wastewater management plans. The draft guideline was workshopped in April 2023 with the sector and will be released later in 2023.

Revised Code of Practice – onsite wastewater management to guide practitioners

In June 2023, public consultation on the Revised Code of Practice via Engage Victoria commenced. The code of practice will be replaced by two pieces of guidance: the guidelines for onsite wastewater management, and the guidelines for effluent dispersal and recycling systems.

Revising the content of the code involved several workshops with the sector, as well as feedback from the statewide onsite wastewater management steering committee.

Onsite Domestic Wastewater Management (ODWM) grants

The grants provided $1.058 million to local councils that are managing onsite wastewater systems.

Collaborative Improvements report

DEECA provided funding to VicWater to develop a report about ways councils and water corporations can collaborate to resolve onsite wastewater management issues.

Local government toolkit

DEECA and EPA developed and implemented e-learning modules for council Environmental Health Officers to learn about the onsite wastewater management functions within the Environment Protection Regulations.

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 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, 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 ensured the incorporation of social and recreational uses and values in the CGRSWS
  • Reviewed water sector 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 finalise the new Recreational Area regulations, due to be enacted in August 2023

The program funds various projects to support this action. Program 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. A six-minute video was also produced, with the strategies and video shared with Victorian water corporations and CMAs.

Understanding visitor usage of storages

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. Program highlights include:

Improving visitor access and experience

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

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 provide new access for fishing and boat launching on the lower Werribee River. This is 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 have been 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 was built at Waranga Basin’s recreational embankment area.

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. The new facilities include a new all abilities kayak launch at a popular river access point in Warrnambool and a paved disabled parking space, completed in June 2023.

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.

New loop walk and fishing platform – Falls Creek to Trawool Reservoir

A signposted loop walking track has been constructed, linking the Rail Trail Bike track, enhancing the environmental value of the area and recreation access to the reservoir. New signage will document the Taungurung and reservoir history, with a new fishing platform (converting barges previously used at Shepparton Wastewater Treatment Plant) improving safe water access. Goulburn Valley Water will engage with Taungurung Land and Waters Council for ongoing management of the reservoir, creek vegetation and these new assets.

Page last updated: 15/11/23