Lake Eildon is a large man-made lake, or reservoir, on the upper reaches of the Goulburn River. It is also the largest water storage for irrigated agriculture in Victoria and located in the green foothills of Victoria’s high country. As well as houseboating, the lake is a popular place for holidays and outdoor activities like boating, fishing and camping.

The only inland waterway in Victoria where houseboating is allowed, Lake Eildon is home to over 700 boats and is the heart of the Victorian houseboat building industry.

Under Victorian law, we all have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to reduce pollution and waste.This means that houseboaters – along with all other lake users – have a duty to manage their wastewater in ways that lessen the risks to people and the environment. Lake Eildon also has its own special regulations that set out how the houseboat fleet is managed. These are the Water (Lake Eildon Recreational Area) Houseboat Regulations, usually called the Houseboat Regulations.

Reviewing and remaking the Houseboat Regulations

We are reviewing the current Houseboat Regulations to see what changes are needed for the next version of the regulations. We're working with the houseboating community to understand and manage the risks to people and the lake, in line with Victoria’s current laws and regulations.

We review the Houseboat Regulations every 10 years, making sure they are working well to protect the health of the lake and the people who rely on it. The current regulations were last reviewed and remade in 2013 and are due to sunset (expire) on 12 June 2023.

We are proposing to have the existing regulations extended for another 12 months, to 12 June 2024. This will give us more time to test the changes that are being considered, making sure they are supported by evidence.

We will confirm in early 2023 if the current regulations will be extended.

Making sure waste water is well-managed

Wastewater is made up of blackwater and greywater:

  • Blackwater is water and waste that is flushed down the toilet
  • Greywater is the used water and waste that goes down all houseboat drains. This includes the kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers, dishwashers and washing machines. Learn more about greywater on houseboats (PDF, 542.9 KB)

Under the current (2013) Houseboat Regulations, all houseboat blackwater is captured in specially designed on-board tanks and then pumped into special barges. The blackwater is transferred from the barges to the Eildon Treatment Plant, where it goes through the same treatment process as wastewater from local houses and businesses. Houseboat owners need to make sure their blackwater systems are working properly so that human waste can’t escape into the lake.

There are no current regulations for treating or capturing greywater that houseboats produce. On most houseboats, greywater flows directly into the lake. This means that the soaps and detergents, food scraps and anything else that goes down a drain, ends up in the lake.

We are working with houseboat owners and builders, the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of Health and independent experts to improve this. It involves finding and testing new greywater options that suit the Lake Eildon houseboat fleet.

Making new regulations

We must follow a set process to remake the Houseboat Regulations. Once we have investigated the wastewater options, we will propose new regulations.

We will carry out a process called a regulatory impact statement (RIS) that judges how the draft regulations will affect the Victorian community. This includes assessing the economic impacts (costs and benefits) of having the regulations in place.

We will make the RIS public, along with a copy of the draft regulations, for everyone to see. We will have a set time where people are able to provide feedback on the RIS and draft regulations. We must also consider feedback from the community when finalising the new regulations.

Working with the houseboating community

The Minister for Water is committed to working with the houseboating community to find practical ways to manage houseboat greywater. We are working with members of the houseboating community to review the regulations and explore options with their remaking.

We have working groups bringing community and government together, exploring potential changes to wastewater management.

We are working together with houseboat owners, boat builders and plumbers, marina operators, technical experts, and Goulburn Murray Water to review and remake the Houseboat Regulations.

Current activities

Some of the activities that are underway as part of reviewing and remaking the Houseboat Regulations include:

Supporting laboratory water testing

We are funding water testing by an accredited laboratory for people who want to trial greywater treatment devices for Lake Eildon houseboats. Support is available to have water samples collected and testing done to see how effective a device is at reducing the harmful substances found in greywater.

How to apply

Applications opened on 1 August 2022 and support is still available. The application form (DOCX, 48.0 KB) provides detailed instructions on how to apply.

What is funded

  • Professional support to complete an application, arrange testing and interpret testing results
  • Collection, transport and laboratory testing of input (raw greywater) and output (treated greywater) samples for the pollutants and pathogens that pose the most risk to people and the lake environment.

Who can apply

Any individual or company that is developing or modifying technologies or devices that reduce greywater pollution from houseboats can submit an expression of interest.

Testing greywater technologies

We are investigating the devices currently available for use on houseboats that claim to reduce the amount of harmful substances (pollutants and pathogens) from greywater.

We are working with independent experts to identify devices that are

suited to use on the houseboat fleet. We understand that existing houseboats have different designs and limitations on installing devices that trap and treat greywater.

Based on the information available, we have a shortlist of devices that appear to be suitable and cost-effective to install on most new or existing houseboats. DEECA is now organising for independent testing to be done to verify the information we have, and to check which devices are suitable to install and operate on the different houseboat types at Lake Eildon.

The testing will look at:

  • noise, odour, power draw and other concerns raised by houseboat owners
  • how effective the available devices are at reducing harmful substances
  • how these devices perform over time, including being switched off and then restarted.

This work will help us to set performance standards that devices will need to meet.

Doing social research

We have worked with Monash University to better understand how houseboats are used. They are learning what steps houseboaters are already taking to manage their greywater, and how we can make it easier in the future.

Through surveys, interviews and workshops, researchers from the university are listening to houseboat owners to understand their views and concerns. DEECA is using this information to design greywater management options.

Monash University has released a short snapshot (PDF, 1.2 MB) on the outcomes of the initial research.

DEECA has developed a summary of a workshop Monash University held in late 2022 with houseboat owners where they discussed actions to prevent food waste from entering houseboat greywater such as installing sink strainers, scraping food off dishes into small food waste bins and using paper towel to wipe them before they are washed.

Understanding wastewater and its risks

We've been working with water quality experts, the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of Health, Goulburn Murray Water and Goulburn Valley Water to understand more about what is in greywater and what effects greywater from houseboats can have on people and the lake. This fact sheet (PDF, 542.9 KB) gives more information about houseboat greywater.

Greywater is one of many sources of pollution and pathogens in Lake Eildon. The risks from greywater discharges are mostly to houseboaters themselves, as the highest concentrations of pollutants and pathogens are found around groups of houseboats close together, in bays, inlets and marinas. People swimming or taking lake water onboard for use while close to other houseboats will have more contact with pollution and pathogens from greywater.

Current houseboating regulations

The current version of the Houseboat Regulations is the Water (Lake Eildon Recreational Area) (Houseboats) Regulations 2013. These regulations came into effect in June 2013.

Previous houseboating regulations

Houseboat access to Lake Eildon has been managed through licencing conditions since the 1960s. Licences are used to cap the number of houseboats on the lake. This limits pollution and manages the demand on facilities like the blackwater barges and boat ramps.

From the 1970s, the Victorian Government has had rules in place to contain blackwater (toilet wastewater).

The 2013 regulations originally included requirements for full greywater treatment systems to be installed on all houseboats used on Lake Eildon by June 2020. Those greywater requirements were removed from the regulations (repealed) in 2017 after an independent review of the available technologies.

There are no conditions for houseboats to manage greywater in the current Houseboat Regulations.

In 2017, the Minister for Water committed to explore future opportunities to improve greywater management.

The current review and remaking of the Houseboat Regulations is building on the lessons learnt through this experience.

Legacy considerations

The greywater systems that were installed under the original 2013 Houseboat Regulations met all the requirements set out in those regulations and complied with the Australian Standard 4995-2009: Greywater treatment systems for vessels operated on inland waters.

The Victorian Government acknowledges that the removal of greywater treatment requirements in 2017 provisions had impacts on houseboat owners and operators, greywater treatment system manufacturers, treatment system installers and houseboat builders.

More information

Page last updated: 15/02/23