On this page:

Reviewing and remaking the houseboat regulations

Lake Eildon is unique - it is the only inland Victorian lake that allows houseboating, popular for holidays, relaxation and overall enjoyment. Home to over 700 houseboats, Lake Eildon is the heart of the Victorian houseboat building industry.

Houseboating on Lake Eildon is regulated under the Water (Lake Eildon Recreation Area) (Houseboats) Regulations 2013. These regulations are put in place by the Minister for Water and set out what houseboat owners must do to be allowed to operate a houseboat on the lake, including requirements for licencing and managing the impacts of houseboat wastewater on human health and the environment.

Since 2020, the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) has been working in partnership with Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW), the houseboat community and stakeholders in a co-design approach to review and remake the current houseboat regulations which sunset on 11 June 2024.

Understanding wastewater and its risks

Under the Environment Protection Act 2017 we all have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to reduce pollution and waste. This means that Lake Eildon houseboat users – along with all other lake users – have a duty to take steps that are ‘reasonably practicable’ to manage risks to human health and the environment that their activities create.

Greywater is a mixture of everything that goes down a houseboat drain, apart from toilets. While houseboat blackwater (wastewater from toilets) is regulated, houseboat greywater (from sinks and drains) is not. This means that the soaps and detergents, food scraps and anything else that goes down a drain, ends up in the lake. Without appropriate management controls, houseboat greywater entering Lake Eildon poses a risk of harm to human health, the environment, and the broader amenity of the lake.

The remade regulations will help ensure houseboat owners are complying with the law and doing their part to protect the lake, both now and for future generations.

Working with the houseboating community

DEECA and GMW have been working with the houseboating community and a range of experts including houseboat builders and plumbers, Better Regulations Victoria, the Victorian Building Authority, the Environment Protection Authority and the Department of Health to build the evidence base to inform the proposed changes to the regulations and explore practical options for managing greywater that are suitable for the Lake Eildon houseboat fleet. This includes input from:

  • Houseboat Stakeholder Working Group
  • Water Quality Working Group
  • Technical Working Group
  • Social research and behavioural insights workshops
  • Technical feasibility studies
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Intervention trials and performance testing.

DEECA and GMW, supported by representatives of the houseboating community and industry, are undertaking water quality and amenity testing to ensure greywater management options available perform and function well. Greywater treatment systems have been installed on two houseboats on Lake Eildon since late 2023. System performance is also being tested within a laboratory environment.

Social research, through surveys, interviews, and workshops, has been undertaken to better understand how houseboats are used, what steps houseboat users are already taking to manage greywater and actions that can make greywater management easier.

Incorporating lessons learnt

Remaking of the regulations has been informed by the experience of the 2013 houseboat regulations, for which the greywater management provisions were repealed in 2017.

Learning from the 2013 regulations, the proposed approach has been designed with due consideration of:

  • confidence in the suitability and performance of greywater treatment options
  • the costs associated with installing greywater interventions on existing boats, and
  • the timeframes established in the regulations to have systems installed on all vessels.

The proposed regulatory changes

The proposed changes to the regulations include new requirements for managing houseboat greywater. The proposed regulatory changes recognise what is reasonably practicable for greywater management across the houseboat fleet given the diversity in size and structure. Tailored intervention opportunities are described for new and existing houseboats and houseboat categories balancing the need to mitigate risks to human health and the environment with access to affordable technology for houseboat owners.

  • For smaller private houseboats (category 1-2) there are no proposed requirements.
  • For larger private houseboats (category 3 and above) simple interventions such as sink strainers/filters and grease traps are proposed to capture pollutants from kitchen wastewater.
  • For commercial hire houseboats, which contribute the largest quantities of greywater to the lake, and new private houseboats (category 3 and above), comprehensive treatment systems that treat all houseboat greywater are proposed, these may include a filtration system and disinfection unit in addition to sink strainers/filters and grease traps.

Houseboats that installed greywater treatment systems under the 2013 Houseboat Regulations will have the option to recommission their systems that comply with the 2013 specifications, provided they are maintained in good working order, instead of installing a new greywater treatment intervention.

Regulatory Impact Statement

A Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the proposed changes to the houseboats regulations has been prepared with support from Frontier Economics, in consultation with Better Regulation Victoria. The RIS sets out the case for government to include provisions for managing greywater in the regulations and an economic analysis of feasible options to achieve these outcomes.

The RIS analysed three different pathways for greywater regulation, and their relative costs and benefits, to provide assurance on their suitability. The RIS determined ‘Option B’ to be the preferred option, which involves simple greywater treatment interventions for private category 3–6 houseboats and comprehensive greywater treatment systems for new builds and commercial hire category 3–6 houseboats.

Option B from the RIS is recommended as:

  • it is expected to deliver net benefits to society; and balances costs on houseboat owners with benefits delivered to the broader region
  • it requires houseboat owners to make changes that are reasonably practicable as part of meeting their general environmental duty to limit risk and targets a key source of the highest risk pollutants: pathogens and nutrients from kitchen wastewater, and
  • provides a practical implementation pathway with an extended transition period.

Public consultation is now open on Engage Vic

The consultation is open for 4 weeks on Engage Victoria, it will remain open until 9 May 2024. Have your say on Remaking the Lake Eildon Recreation Area Houseboats Regulations.

The purpose of the Engage Victoria consultation is to inform the houseboat community and broader public on the proposed changes to the houseboat regulations and gather feedback on the exposure (draft) regulations and the supporting Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS). Feedback on the draft Regulations can be provided via the Engage Victoria survey.

A 'closing the loop' consultation report will be prepared to summarise the feedback received, this will be published on Engage Victoria.

More information

Page last updated: 12/04/24