Our vision is for a water sector that understands and adapts to varying water availability under climate change. We are taking a leadership role in reducing emissions and ensuring climate change is embedded in all operational decisions.
Over four years we are investing $7.4 million to implement climate change actions in the water sector. This will complement the significant work our water corporations and CMAs are doing to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.
Better understanding and responding to changing water availability
Action on climate change is fundamental to the longterm health of Victoria, our economy, our environment and our people. We are supporting the water sector’s adaptation to climate change by investing $4.9 million into research on climate and hydrology. This investment will also help develop tools that apply up to date and robust climate science to water management.
We released the Guidelines for assessing the impact of climate change on water supplies in January 2017. The Guidelines provide water corporations with a set of climate projections and critical, up-to-date data and advice about how to assess the impact of climate change on water supplies.
Following the release of the Guidelines we have established new research agreements with the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO and Melbourne University. The research from our partners will help us plan for our water resources to ensure more secure and reliable water supplies for Victoria now and into the future.
Towards a net zero – emissions water sector
The water sector is currently responsible for around one quarter of the State Government’s emissions; this gives us a significant opportunity to contribute to emissions reductions for the whole State. Water corporations have worked with us to develop emission reduction pathways through a pledge program. Their proposals include increasing energy efficiency, developing their own renewable energy projects and investigating opportunities to purchase renewable energy.
Collectively the 19 water corporations have pledged to reduce their emissions by approximately 350,000 tonnes - or 41 per cent - by 2025. These pledges have been ratified in each water corporation’s Statement of Obligations. This demonstrates how the sector is taking genuine action to mitigate climate change and move towards net zero emissions.
Water corporations are also investigating carbon offsetting to improve the health of Victoria’s catchments and river systems. A trial carbon offsetting program has been funded under the Our Catchments, Our Communities strategy and is running in partnership between water corporations, CMAs and DELWP. The trial will help us understand where carbon offset opportunities exist and show how projects can deliver emissions reductions, increase climate resilience, and improve catchment management outcomes.
Yarra Valley Water’s cutting-edge recycling facility in Melbourne’s north will reduce landfill, cut greenhouse emissions and produce enough renewable energy to pay for itself. The purpose-built facility converts organic waste such as food scraps, which would otherwise be bound for landfill, into renewable energy. The amount of energy produced by the new facility is the equivalent of about 25 per cent of Yarra Valley Water’s overall energy requirements.
It is enough to power the adjacent sewage treatment plant and export surplus electricity to the grid as renewable energy – making the facility not just environmentally sustainable but also commercially viable. This project was funded by Yarra Valley Water.
Findings from the Victorian Climate Initiative are providing new insights into the impact of climate change and variability on Victorian water availability. The synthesis report was released in August 2017 and highlights the key research outcomes and implications for Victoria. The findings are now online and are being used by water corporations to develop plans for our water resources.
One of the findings of the research was a declining trend in cool season rainfall over recent decades, which is associated with a southerly shift in rain bearing weather systems. That means we have been getting less rain during the winter months. The research shows that global warming is a significant contributor to the southerly shift, so this trend is likely to continue.
Our focus over the next three years will be to:
continue to invest in research to understand the causes and impacts of reducing water availability
respond to research and act to better secure water resources
report on water corporations’ progress and performance in reducing emissions
finalise and start implementing the pilot water sector climate adaptation plan
Additional projects are currently being developed to continue building our understanding of Victoria’s climate and future water availability, and assist in the application of that knowledge across the water sector. We will make the research publicly available to support the development and implementation of current and future water policy, planning and practice.
We are developing the pilot Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan with CMAs, water corporations, local government and key stakeholders under the State Climate Change Adaptation Plan (2017). The pilot plan will be finalised by mid-2018 and will ensure water-related climate change adaptation is well integrated into all authorities, regions and communities across the state.
We are also developing a reporting framework for the water corporation emission reduction pledges. The framework will allow water corporations to demonstrate their progress in reducing emissions. We will make their progress public as data becomes available.
Communicating clear performance information from across the industry will ensure the water sector is providing the best possible service to the community.