On this page:

Many experts and authorities did thorough assessments before the project’s approval. They gave their findings in an Environmental Effects Statement (EES). Now construction is over, this valuable research is carried over into effective environmental management.

The Victorian desalination project’s EES included research into:

  • How can we help local plant and animal life thrive?
  • How will the project affect local people and cultures?
  • How will the project work with existing water systems?
  • How will the project change the landscape?
  • How might the design reduce visual impacts?
  • What are the possible impacts on the surrounding land or sea?
  • How will this project impact social and community needs?

How did the EES inform the Victorian desalination project?

The outcomes of the EES resulted in over 200 environmental performance requirements and were included in the contractual documents. Read Desalination Project - Project Deed Annexure 3 on TendersVic for the complete list of those obligations.

The Independent Reviewer and Environmental Auditor (IREA) audits Aqua Sure’s environmental management quarterly. In their role, the IREA also reviewed the design and construction against the performance requirements that were derived from the EES findings.

Community consultation and engagement

Community consultation and engagement played an important in the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process which included:

  • direct meetings with landowners on the pipeline route
  • forums for local business, environment, tourism and recreational groups
  • focus groups, council liaison meetings and feedback from displays and briefings.

As a result, Victoria's desalination plant has some innovative design solutions:

  • the plant integrates into the coastal landscape with a green roof and low-profile building designs
  • dune creation and coastal habitat restoration reduce the visual impact
  • renewable energy certificates offset power usage and limit the overall carbon footprint
  • underground pipelines that bypass marine, coastal and estuarine environments
  • thoughtful design of the intake and outlet structures. This design reduces the risk to marine life and disperses outflows.

All up, the EES process developed over 200 performance requirements. AquaSure has agreed to meet all these performance requirements in their contract.

Their Environmental Management System and Environmental Management Plan outlines:

  • activities that ensure environmental impacts are minimised or avoided
  • a structured way that these activities were planned and completed
  • a planned approach to meeting performance requirements.

Discover Aquasure's strategies for better environmental management.

Independent reviewer and environmental auditor’s (IREA) role

The government and AquaSure appointed Davis Langdon with MWH as the project's IREA. In 2010 AECOM acquired Davis Langdon and assumed the role of IREA. They oversaw the design and construction phases.

This IREA's role includes:

  • verifying and certifying all design documentation
  • reviewing project plans and the design and construction program
  • reviewing design and construction, and operations and maintenance
  • reviewing project safety
  • reviewing and auditing the works and project activities.

This ensures compliance with the project deed, including environmental requirements.

Environmental audit function

The IREA has an expanded role that also includes an environmental audit function. This ensures management and practices have the highest level of review and surveillance.

For example, the IREA implemented a baseline marine monitoring program. The program gathered data on the marine environment before the plant's commissioning.

This gave current monitoring and reports an important baseline for comparison. This helped authorities better understand the impacts. In turn, the EPA can make informed decisions around the plant's operations and maintenance.

Compliance with EPA regulations

Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulations also guide the plant's operations. The EPA's discharge licence is a great example of regulation in action.

The plant pumps seawater concentrates out into the ocean as part of its normal processes. The EPA’s discharge licence requires proper diffusion within a limited mixing zone. This reduces the impact on marine environments.

The discharge licence has been in place since the plant’s commissioning and was recently re-issued under section 74(1)(a) of the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act).

The plant must operate within the requirements of an EPA-issued licence. It describes the performance outcomes the plant's operator must meet. These outcomes include strict controls on the disposal of any wastes generated by the plant.

Details of AquaSure’s licence can be found on the EPA website.

Page last updated: 10/10/23