What we will do
- Achieve net-zero emissions in the water sector by 2050;
- Understand and apply climate science to water management;
- Lead climate change adaptation across Victoria’s water sector.
Water for Victoria is setting a long-term plan to prepare for and respond to climate change
Over recent decades Victoria’s climate has become drier and warmer. The recent Millennium Drought was the worst drought on record in south-east Australia. Streamflows dropped to record lows and many communities faced severe water restrictions.
By 2065, streamflows in some catchments could reduce by around 50 per cent. This would have serious consequences for everyone: households, industry, agriculture, recreation, cultural values, liveability, waterway health, and our environment.
Climate change will also bring more extreme events including drought, floods, and heatwaves. These can increase human and environmental demand for water, impact on productivity and health, and also threaten water infrastructure. Sea levels will rise which may erode, damage or flood low-lying infrastructure and reduce the effectiveness of drainage infrastructure, leading to more severe flooding.
Adapting to the impacts of climate change and managing current and future risks is critical to building resilience in our communities and securing a healthy and prosperous future for all Victorians. Victoria’s Climate Change Framework sets out the Government's long-term vision for climate change action, and Victoria’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2017-2020 describes our approach to adaptation across all sectors.
We must act now, building on the good work done to get Victoria through the Millennium Drought, to reduce the impact and costs of later responses. The Millennium Drought Report outlines Victoria’s response to extreme water shortage and the lessons learnt, which have placed us in a strong position to adapt to climate change.
Water for Victoria sets the goal of achieving net-zero emissions in the water sector by 2050. This commitment has been formalised by the Minister for Water issuing a Statement of Obligation (Emissions Reduction) (PDF, 1.9 MB) or Word version (DOCX, 51.4 KB). The Statement applies to the 19 Victorian water corporations and integrates emissions reduction into their required business activities.
The water sector is the largest government emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. The water sector contributes almost a quarter (24%) of the government’s greenhouse emissions, followed by the rail (19%) and healthcare sectors (18%).
Victoria’s four metropolitan water corporations will explore an early path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.
The water sector has already reduced its emissions significantly by investing in more efficient equipment, capturing biogas for energy generation, investing in renewable energy generation and purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets.
In 2017, Victoria’s 19 water corporations pledged to Government a pathway to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, with the four metropolitan water corporations setting an early path to net-zero emissions by 2030. Each water corporation has set its own path to net-zero emissions, informed by their customers’ preferences.
Victoria’s water corporations have pledged to reduce their emissions by 363,975 t-CO2e per year by 1 July 2025. This represents a 42% reduction over their current emissions. When factoring for population growth and other variables, this represents a reduction of 446,544 tonnes, or 47%, over business-as-usual.
The Victorian Government’s investment in climate and water resources research is an important part of informing the sector’s long-term planning and climate change adaptation decisions.
To help Victoria’s water sector plan for the future impacts of climate change on water supplies, the Victorian Climate Initiative (VicCI) , improved our understanding of climate impacts on water availability. Based on the results of this research, DELWP developed a set of Guidelines for Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Water Supplies in Victoria (PDF, 10.1 MB) . They equip the sector with the most up-to-date understanding of climate change and associated risks to water resources.
Previous research has improved our understanding of Victoria’s past and future climate, however many questions remain. The Victorian Government is continuing to invest in water and climate research through establishment of the new Victorian Water and Climate Initiative, which includes investments with research partners the University of Melbourne, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. Research through the program is focused on a range of priority research topics that will enable better informed water management decisions.
Victoria’s water sector will be guided by a new climate change adaptation plan as part of the Victorian Government’s whole-of-government strategy to combat the effects of climate change.
The Pilot Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan (PDF, 4.2 MB) or Word version (DOCX, 1.5 MB) has been delivered as part of the Water for Victoria program, and was launched in October 2018.
This pilot plan outlines the current and potential future impacts of climate change, the actions already taken to address them, what still needs to be done, and 20 priority actions to inform Victoria’s long-term strategy to tackle the effects of climate change and put the sector on the right track to a resilient water future for Victoria. These actions also put the water sector in a strong position to prepare the inaugural Water Sector Adaptation Action Plan by 2021, as required under the Climate Change Act 2017.
A summary fact sheet on the plan has been developed which:
- details how climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect Victoria
- outlines the short, medium and long-term objectives for climate adaptation in Victoria’s water sector
- lists all 20 adaptation actions being undertaken through the plan
The pilot plan has been prepared ahead of schedule to ensure the community and the water sector are involved in planning for a future system that is resilient to the effects of climate change.