Lake Eildon is a large man-made lake, or reservoir, located on the scenic upper reaches of the Goulburn River, in the foothills of Victoria’s high country. The biggest water supply for irrigated agriculture in Victoria, Lake Eildon is also a popular destination for holidaying and recreation. As the only inland waterway in Victoria that allows houseboats, it is home to a fleet of over 700 boats.  Lake Eildon has its own special regulations that set out how the houseboat fleet it managed.

Houseboaters, like all lake users, have a duty of care to look after the lake, for recreational use, for town and agricultural water supply, for the fish and other wildlife, and for future generations.

Houseboat regulations review and renewal

The Water (Lake Eildon Recreational Area) (Houseboats) Regulations 2013 (the houseboat regulations) set out how houseboats can be used on the lake. Established by the Minister for Water under the Water Act (1989), the daily work of applying the houseboat regulations is done by Goulburn Murray Water (GMW), as the agency responsible for managing Lake Eildon.

The houseboat regulations are reviewed and renewed on a ten-year cycle. The review process is currently underway for the next renewal, due by 1 July 2023.

As part of the current review, DELWP is exploring options to improve how houseboat wastewater (both greywater and blackwater) is managed.

Current activities

A range of activities are underway as part of the review and 2023 renewal of the houseboat regulations, including:

Understanding environmental regulations for wastewater

All wastewater, including from houseboats, needs to be managed in accordance with the Environment Protection Act 2017.

Coming into effect on 1 July 2021, this act introduces the general environmental duty (GED) which requires all Victorians to take steps to reduce the risk of harm to human health and the environment from all pollution and waste, including wastewater.

The GED sets a clear expectation that the houseboating sector will manage all wastewater to prevent pollution and avoid the risk of environmental damage.

Houseboats on Lake Eildon are the only exception to the requirement under this act that all releases of greywater to waterways are either fully treated or fully contained.

The Environment Protection Act makes it clear that greywater from houseboats should be managed directly through the Lake Eildon houseboat regulations, in ways that are acceptable under the GED.

Reviewing and evaluating risks

DELWP is working with the community, stakeholders, government agencies and subject matter experts to better understand the wastewater generated by Lake Eildon houseboats and assess the risks to the environment and to human health, and to explore options to improve how houseboat wastewater is managed.

Social research

DELWP has brought Monash University on board to do research to better understand how houseboats are used, and what steps houseboaters are already taking to manage their wastewater. Monash Uni has released a short snapshot on the outcomes of the research.

Working with the houseboating community

The Minister for Water is committed to working with the community in managing houseboat greywater. Under this commitment, DELWP is working with houseboating stakeholders to review the regulations. This includes exploring options for improving how both greywater and blackwater are managed and what changes could be made to the regulations to better protect the lake and houseboaters, now and long into the future.

DELWP is actively consulting with a range of stakeholder groups and individuals to ensure that community voices are part of the review process.  This includes representative from the houseboat industry, Lake Eildon marinas, water quality treatment sector, boat builders and plumbers, as well as houseboat owner representatives. Input from these stakeholder groups is informing the review.

2013 Houseboat Regulations

Houseboat access to Lake Eildon has been managed through licencing conditions since the 1960. In recognition of health and environmental impacts, blackwater (toilet wastewater) containment has been compulsory since the 1970s. The discharge of greywater (all non-toilet wastewater) from houseboats is not currently subject to any regulatory controls, allowing discharge directly into the lake.

Greywater regulations were introduced when the houseboat regulations were last renewed in 2013. These regulations were repealed in 2017 following an independent review in response to community concerns, with the Minister for Water committing to explore future opportunities to improve greywater management.

The Victorian government acknowledges that the 2017 removal of greywater treatment-related provisions had impacts on houseboaters, greywater treatment system manufacturers, treatment system installers and houseboat builders.

The review and 2023 renewal of the houseboat regulations consider legacy concerns associated with the introduction and subsequent repeal of greywater regulations in the 2013 renewal.

More information

Page last updated: 19/04/22