A growing population means there is greater pressure on our water supplies and more stormwater and wastewater created. Using a diverse range of water sources and efficiency measures will help meet our water needs and support the liveability of Victoria’s cities and towns.
We are working with the water sector to improve water efficiency, secure our urban water supplies and deliver integrated water management to make the best use of our precious water supplies.
A renewed focus on water efficiency
Target 155 focuses on advice and education to help Melbourne residents understand how we can use water efficiently to reach the annual target of 155 litres per person per day. Target Your Water Use complements Target 155 by recognising how water is used differently across Victoria. These programs are being implemented locally by water corporations.
In 2017, we also restarted the Community Water Rebate Program which focuses on customers who are vulnerable or facing hardship. This year the program has helped more than 1,500 customers who can’t afford to make their homes water efficient. The program will continue in 2018.
Our award winning and popular Schools Water Efficiency Program (SWEP) continues to identify leaks and faulty appliances in schools across the state. As of October 2017, the 954 schools participating had saved more than 4.3 billion litres of water. That’s a saving of more than $12.5 million on school water bills. In an extension of the schools program, we have been trialling the SWEP software across thirty of our DELWP sites to understand our water use and improve water efficiency.
Tackling future pressures – securing our urban water supplies
Each water corporation has developed its own Urban Water Strategy - a plan for securing our urban water supplies for the next 50 years. These strategies were informed by guidelines we developed in 2017. An Urban Water Strategy sets out:
- climate and population projections that are comparable between water corporations
- drought preparedness planning
- all drinking and non-drinking water sources and the appropriate use of each source
Strategies are available on your water corporation's website: find your local water corporation on the Water in your region map.
We have been working with water corporations and local government to understand the cost of water restrictions to the community. We have completed a comprehensive review of existing economic literature on the subject and found that when compared to desalinated water orders, stage 3 and stage 4 restrictions cost more and are a less reliable way to provide water security. The data produced by the study has been used in a proof of concept case study involving South Gippsland Water. The data is also being used by Coliban Water and Melbourne Water to understand the value of higher cost water to their customers.
Our new wastewater guidelines - Guidelines for the Development of a Long-Term Bulk Sewerage Strategy for Melbourne - will help City West Water, Melbourne Water, South East Water, Western Water and Yarra Valley Water prepare a sewerage strategy. The strategies will set a clear direction for how Melbourne’s sewerage system will evolve in the future, including any resource recovery opportunities (for example recovery of energy and water from sewage). They will be finalised by 30 September 2018.
The Yarra River Action Plan was released in early 2017 and follows recommendations by the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee and outlines 30 actions to protect the Yarra River and its parklands.
The Victorian Parliament has now enacted the Yarra River (Willip-gin Birrarung Murron) Act 2017. The Act establishes the independent Birrarung Council to provide ongoing advice to government on the protection and improvement of the Yarra River. Another important action is new planning controls that will ensure consistent decision making across government boundaries and protect the Yarra River’s character and environmental values. The 2017-18 budget included $6.5 million towards delivering the Action Plan. The Action Plan is an example of how we are developing stronger links between waterway and catchment management and the state planning system to protect waterways.
Victoria is a world leader in urban water management. Presentations on the IWM program have been delivered at events with an international audience such as the Eco City Summit and New Urban Agenda conference.
We launched the Integrated Water Management (IWM) Framework for Victoria in September 2017 to help government and our delivery partners work together to plan for and manage all elements of the water cycle, including recycled water and stormwater.
Integrated Water Management (IWM) forums will bring together the water sector, local government and Traditional Owners to integrate how water is managed. Each organisation will represent the views of their local communities to ensure Victorians are at the centre of our planning. Five metropolitan forums and priority regional forums have been established and have had their first meetings in November 2017. Additional forums are being set up across regional Victoria.
The first step is for each IWM forum to develop it own strategic direction statement - a vision for both the short term opportunities and the longer term direction of a region. The statements will also articulate how organisations within each region will work together to address critical issues of population growth, the impacts of climate change and document how we can deliver broader outcomes, such as liveability, through the provision of water services.
Next IWM Plans will be developed by the forums to support significant population growth in parts of Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. For example, Western Water is working collaboratively with Melbourne Water, City West Water, DELWP and the municipalities of Melton and Wyndham to develop a strategy that uses the best mix of water sources to deliver improved liveability, waterway health and community well-being for the 360,000 people who are expected to live in the area over the next 35 years.
The Johnstone Park project is a key action of the Revitalising Central Geelong Action Plan. The project will integrate water into the architecture of Johnstone Park and provide a new space for the community to spend time in the heart of the city.
The project will benefit the environment by harvesting, cleaning, storing and reusing stormwater runoff for irrigation of the park. Stormwater will be collected in a series of terraced ponds that remove pollutants including nitrogen and oils that would otherwise flow into Corio Bay. The filtered stormwater will be stored in a submerged 250,000-litre tank and used to irrigate the park. It will meet up to 60 per cent of the park’s irrigation needs and save drinking water that would otherwise be used for irrigation.
The project provides new places to sit on the embankments, all-weather surfacing for the paths, a new staircase meeting contemporary design standards and a new ramp providing universal access into the park’s basin.
We will continue to help Victorian cities and towns become resilient and liveable by putting IWM into practice across the state. The IWM Framework and creation of priority IWM forums were the first steps in this process. In 2018, we will continue to work with the urban water sector and communities to prioritise projects, build industry capacity and assist in the development of plans for priority areas, leading to tangible onground outcomes.
Stormwater management will be improved with amendments to the Victorian Planning Provisions and related building regulations. The amended provisions are expected to commence in mid-2018 with supporting planning practice notes and training to be provided to local government ahead of the commencement date. These amendments support the Yarra River Action Plan that committed to extending the coverage of stormwater standards to commercial and industrial areas.
Our water efficiency programs will continue to expand. For example, the pilot Community Housing Retrofit program was started in 2016 to target not-for-profit emergency and community housing across the Yarra Valley Water service area. Leaks were repaired and preventative maintenance was carried out to appliances that had not been maintained. The initial trial found the plumbing work along with education and awareness helps support not-for-profit agencies to better manage future water bills and reduce water consumption. The program is now being extended across greater Melbourne into Central Highlands Water and Lower Murray Water areas over 2017 and 2018.