Our coast and bay - along with rivers, streams, groundwater and wetlands - are some of Victoria’s most valuable natural assets. Healthy, productive waterways are vital for household supplies, industrial and agricultural use, aquaculture and recreation, and to support our tourism industry. Good quality water, healthy plants and animals, as well as suitable flows in the waterways, are essential to maintain the many demands placed on our water environments.

Image courtesy EPA

colourful bathing boxes at sunset

State environment protection policies (SEPPs) help us address water quality requirements across Victoria by setting out the beneficial uses of water and the environmental quality indicators and objectives to protect them. SEPPs are established under the Environment Protection Act 1970 as a legal framework to protect and improve Victoria’s water environments, as well as the social and economic values they support.  

Delivering the new SEPP (Waters) was a commitment made by the Victorian Government in Water for Victoria and reflects significant input and consultation with the water industry over several years.

The new SEPP (Waters)

The new SEPP (Waters) ensures that Victoria has a contemporary statutory policy for the protection and management of surface water and groundwater in Victoria. This is achieved by establishing in law the uses and environmental values to be protected, defining the level of environmental quality required for their protection, and setting rules and obligations to ensure management actions are taken to protect water quality.

SEPP (Waters) updates and replaces two previous SEPPs to provide a single instrument to guide water quality management in Victoria and improve protection of our waterways, bays and coastal waters. It provides environmental quality objectives which better reflect conditions of our water environments and is based on extensive monitoring data, the latest scientific understanding and relevant national standards. It also more clearly identifies rules for decision makers and obligations on industry to guide the protection and management of water quality in Victoria.

By approving the new SEPP (Waters), the Victorian Government is confirming policy positions on a range of issues as well as setting new environmental standards based on contemporary science. This will provide a streamlined transition to the new regulatory framework following the commencement of the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 in mid-2020.

Implementation

An Implementation Plan will guide the delivery of the new SEPP (Waters), and includes actions such as updating guidelines, activities to set and achieve targets, updating planning provisions, and the development of a monitoring, evaluation and reporting (MER) Framework.

In addition to the Implementation Plan, the MER Framework has been developed for the SEPP (Waters). This Framework is a guidance document for DELWP, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and partnership agencies to develop their own effective MER programs to monitor their progress towards the SEPP (Waters) objectives.

EPA Reform

The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 will provide a new framework for the protection of human health and the environment from pollution and waste. This comes into effect 1 July 2020. Environmental reference standards (SEPP objectives) will remain a core element of this framework.