Climate Change Research, Mitigation and Adaptation

This initiative supported implementation of Chapter 2 of Water for Victoria by taking action to mitigate climate change and providing policy direction, tools and support for water resource managers and users to adapt to changing conditions. It established a knowledge hub for climate science and water resource research and implemented a process to reduce emissions in the water sector. This initiative also funded delivery of action 4.9 in Chapter 4 of Water for Victoria by implementing measures to improve water security in drought-prone regions of Victoria.

EC4 Expenditure to date

Improving Victoria's preparedness and response to climate change and the impacts of drought $2,231,170 $2,042,230 $14,000 $14,000
Water for Victoria: Climate change - $1,649,000 $2,007,000 $2,088,000


Climate change research

Key achievements of the climate change research component of this initiative include:

  • Establishing the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative, which was a research initiative looking into the impact of climate change and climate variability on Victoria’s water resources. It included three related research projects, undertaken through funding agreements with the University of Melbourne, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO:
    • Researchers from the University of Melbourne undertook research focused on increasing understanding of where runoff rates across Victoria have reduced, and the reasons for the decline. The runoff response of many catchments across Victoria reduced significantly during the Millennium Drought, and many have still not recovered.
    • Researchers from the Bureau of Meteorology worked to improve understanding of different weather types and their influence on rainfall. They also looked at ways to better characterise Victoria’s current climate, and the influence of tropical expansion on Victorian rainfall.
    • CSIRO researchers developed improved methods for generating rainfall and streamflow projections for Victoria. This included looking at approaches to better understand and communicate the range of future projections, which is helping to inform long-term climate change adaptation planning for the water sector.
  • A synthesis of the findings from the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative will be released in 2020, which documents the findings from the four year research program. The findings from the research program builds the foundational knowledge base that underpins many planning and policy decisions across the Victorian water sector.
  • The research program informed the development of updated guidance for assessing the impact of climate change on water availability across Victoria. The guidelines present a consistent approach for applying updated scenarios for temperature, potential evapotranspiration, rainfall, runoff and groundwater recharge to be used across Victoria for assessing the impact of climate change on water availability. The guidelines provide the basis for climate change adaptation planning for water security for the 19 Water Corporations across Victoria.
  • The research program and the guidelines built off the earlier Victorian Climate Initiative, which in 2019 won the Australian Water Association’s Research Innovation Award at the Victorian finals.
  • The Victorian Water and Climate Initiative research program had 34 scientific journal publications published or submitted for publication, and contributed more than 40 presentations across paleoclimate, hydrology and climate research to the 22nd and 23rd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM 2017, 2019), 38th Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium (HWRS 2018), 2018 European Geophysical Union General Assembly Conference, Climate Extreme (CLEX) Annual Workshop 2018, 2019 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, amongst other conferences.
  • In addition to informing planning undertaken by water corporations across Victoria, the findings of the research program were tailored to inform many state-wide policy and planning activities, including the Long-Term Water Resource Assessment (LTWRA), Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS) development and Latrobe Valley Regional Water Study (LVRWS).
  • Communicating and applying the science across a broad range of water sector stakeholder groups was a focus of the initiative, including through newsletters, factsheets, a webinar series and science days.
  • Contributing to implementation of the pilot Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan through a range of different actions within the pilot plan.

Climate change mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Victorian water sector)

While this initiative was funded until the end of the 2019-20 financial year, a number of the actions outlined below remain ongoing as we continue to pursue new and improved ways to quickly and cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Victorian water sector. Key achievements of the climate change mitigation component of this initiative include, but are not limited to:

  • Worked with water corporations to develop principles to guide quick and cost-effective emissions reductions in the water sector, evaluate the costs and benefits of emissions reduction, and agree on a carbon accounting approach.
  • Worked with water corporations to finalise the Victorian water sector's commitment to a long-term target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Committed Victorian water corporations to achieving ambitious shorter-term emissions reduction targets to be achieved by 2025 (see table below). These targets amount to a 42% reduction in Victorian water corporations’ emissions compared to 2011-2016 levels.
Victorian Water Corporation Baseline annual emissions (t CO2-e) 1 July 2025 annual emissions target (t CO2-e) % emissions reduction from baseline
Barwon Water Corporation 42,986 15,926 63%
Central Gippsland Water Corporation 42,021 32,080 24%
Central Highlands Water Corporation 18,336 14,738 20%
City West Water Corporation 12,401 2,471 80%
Coliban Water Corporation 33,604 29,304 13%
East Gippsland Water Corporation 8,272 6,496 22%
Southern Rural Water Corporation 1,559 0 100%
Goulburn-Murray Water Corporation 13,053 10,399 20%
Goulburn Valley Water Corporation 46,267 37,416 19%
Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation 20,017 16,244 19%
Lower Murray Water Corporation 40,243 24,708 39%
Melbourne Water Corporation 408,860 204,380 50%
North East Water Corporation 34,391 19,817 42%
South East Water Corporation 41,372 23,016 44%
South Gippsland Water Corporation 7,663 6,480 15%
Wannon Water Corporation 31,626 18,976 40%
Western Water Corporation 27,906 25,115 10%
Westernport Water Corporation 6,062 5,598 8%
Yarra Valley Water Corporation 32,004 11,664 64%
  • Prepared 2025 emissions reduction pathway documents outlining the priorities, projects and initiatives water corporations would explore to meet 2025 emissions reduction targets.
  • Conducted an independent review of these Victorian water corporations' emission reduction target to be achieved by 2025, reviewing their cost effectiveness and feasibility.
  • Developed requirements for water corporations to report their total energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy use, and adaptation initiatives annually. This helps the sector remain on track to achieve its targets and ensures the sector remains transparent and accountable as it achieves its emissions related goals.
  • Initiated a collaborative project with Victoria’s catchment management authorities to explore carbon sequestration and offsetting opportunities across the state. This work will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and result in other benefits for our communities and our local environment.
  • Commenced the first phase of our innovative Net Zero Water Cycle Program. This is a joint research program with the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Queensland University and BehaviourWorks Australia. The program seeks to understand the links between household water behaviour and energy consumption to find ways to reduce residential water-related energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and customer bills in Victoria.

Climate change adaptation (adapting to the impacts of climate change in the Victorian water sector)

While this initiative was funded until the end of the 2019-20 financial year, there are some projects that are ongoing. These projects will be delivered over 2020/21. Key achievements of the climate change adaptation component of this initiative include, but is not limited to:

  • Finalised Victoria's first pilot Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan, containing 20 unique adaptation actions (outlined below). The pilot actions help to build knowledge of climate change impacts on water, develop tools and policies to enable successful adaptation to climate change, and enhance the capability of water sector staff to apply climate change adaptation to business decisions.
  • Completed 15 out of the 20 actions from the pilot Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan (as at November 2020) with all remaining actions well underway. A table of pilot actions and their status is shown below (this table represents only a small snapshot of the outputs, outcomes and benefits resulting from each action). For more information on any of the actions listed please contact
Pilot actionAction descriptionStatus
1 Stress testing the south and central sections of Victoria’s water grid to test the resilience of grid-connected systems

South-Central Victorian water grid stress test completed

2 Collate and share knowledge about the impact of climate change on wastewater Complete
5 new technical reports prepared in collaboration with the sector outlining the impacts of climate change on the Victorian wastewater system
3 Consider the changing wastewater, drainage and flood management risks under climate change in Integrated Water Management Forums Complete
High-level climate change assessment of Integrated Water Management Forum Strategic Directions Statement documents completed
4 Encourage the use of best practice methods to incorporate climate change into the estimation of future flood impacts Complete
In-person training workshops to over 100 key stakeholders to build capability and capacity in using Australian Rainfall and Runoff 2016 (ARR2016)
5 Identify the impact of climate change on Traditional Owner values associated with water and how to adapt to them Underway
Expected to be completed June 2021
6 Collate and share knowledge about the impact of climate change on water supply between water sector stakeholders Complete
Water Availability and Climate Change Working Group established to discuss and share information on impacts of climate change on water supply
7 Collate and share knowledge about the impact of climate change on wastewater Complete
5 new technical reports prepared in collaboration with the sector outlining the impacts of climate change on the Victorian wastewater system
8 Improve information sources on adaptation for the water industry Underway
New external collaboration site and updated DELWP water climate change website due for roll out across key stakeholders shortly.
9 Review the Guidelines for Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Water Supplies in Victoria Underway
Expected to be completed before December 2020
10 Develop a framework to inform consistent and systematic embedment of climate change considerations into water business decisions Underway
Survey conducted to determine existing frameworks and guidance used by the water sector and their future needs.
To be continued into the 2021 Water Sector Adaptation Action Plan
11 Develop a monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement (MERI) plan Complete
MERI plan completed for pilot. Formal evaluation to commence 2021 in line with MERI plan once all actions are complete.
12 Review the use of climate change scenarios in water sector planning Complete
Research report on climate change scenarios in adaptation planning across Victoria’s water sector completed
13 Review emergency management plans used in the water sector to prepare the Victorian water sector for potentially more intense, frequent and overlapping emergency events in the future Complete
Emergency management guidance notes for water corporations and catchment management authorities completed
14 Review and update workforce emergency management capability, capacity and training requirements Complete
Sector survey on workforce capability, capacity and training needs under climate change completed. Fact sheet with summarised results to be prepared.
15 Create a methodology to identify and manage key risks between water and other critical service sectors under climate change Complete
Final project report on interdependency methodology and case study completed.
16 Guidance and case studies on preparing successful business cases for climate change adaptation within the Victorian water sector Complete
Guidance note on successful adaptation business cases and case studies completed.
17 Develop and deliver guidance material for water industry boards and executives on climate change risks and duties of care Complete
Managing Climate Change Risk: Guidance for Board Members and Executives of Water Corporations and Catchment Management Authorities prepared, and climate change session held at Water Sector Director Development Program.
18 Guidance and case studies in estimating the cost of climate change to Victorian water corporations Complete
Guidance note on estimating climate change costs and case studies completed.
19 Improve the management of the potential impacts of climate change on water quality due to algae Complete
Research report completed and new state-level, risk-based framework drafted to improve algae management in Victoria under climate change.
20 Prepare guidelines for assessing the impact of climate change on sewerage systems – Implementation phase Underway
Phase one (scoping the guidelines) completed. Phase two to be delivered over the 2020/21 period.
  • Commenced foundational work to inform the development of the first Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan as required under Victoria’s Climate Change Act 2017. This plan will build on learnings from the pilot and is expected to be released in 2021.

Page last updated: 27/11/20