Water supplies secure but Victorians encouraged to hit Target 155
The 2019 Water Outlook confirms that Melbourne’s water storage levels are secure for the next 12 months, even while levels are the lowest they have been at this time of year since 2010. Permanent water saving rules and T155 (Melbourne’s voluntary water efficiency program) remain in place to help maintain sufficient ongoing storage levels to service Melbourne.
At the end of November 2018, our storage level of 63.0 percent was 5.6 per cent (101 billion litres) lower than at the same time last year due largely to warmer and drier than average weather conditions and below-average stream flows experienced during 2018.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s outlook for summer is for warmer-than-average conditions and the recent trend of our storages is likely to continue over the summer months.
Melbourne’s growing population contributed to a 5 per cent increase in overall water use in 2017–18.
Melbourne households are water wise, using 35 percent less water each year, per person, than we were in 2000–01. Per capita consumption of water remains steady at 161 litres per person per day – just above our target of 155 litres per person per day.
The Victorian desalination plant is helping to keep our water supplies secure. Without the use of the desalination plant, storages would have been 4.2 per cent lower than they currently are.
The metropolitan water utilities have comprehensive plans and are working on a number of projects to continue to secure water into the future. These include:
- Investing in new infrastructure to extend Melbourne’s recycled water network to connect new suburbs with an alternative water source for non-potable uses.
- Constructing a stormwater reuse facility at Kalkallo and enhanced stormwater utilisation in the broader northern growth corridor
- Upgrading the Yan Yean treatment plant to improve water quality and allow reintroduction of water to the growing north of Melbourne.
- A $12M stormwater harvesting fund to support local councils in Melbourne’s west to develop stormwater projects.
- Investing in leakage reduction by establishing district metered areas.
- Modelling sustainable suburbs of the future, such as the Aquarevo residential development at Lyndhurst, where homes will be plumbed with three sources of water (rain, drinking and recycled)
- Progressive replacement of the Maroondah Aqueduct with a pipeline to maximise water efficiency
The Government’s Integrated Water Management forums conducted over the past year have also identified a number of opportunities throughout Melbourne to increase the use of alternative water sources and enhance urban amenity.
“We’re dedicated to staying ahead of Melbourne’s population growth, by discovering and delivering solutions today, so our customers can rely on us tomorrow,” said Terri Benson, Managing Director at South East Water.
“We make decisions understanding that every drop of water and action counts – and you can too. We only need to reduce our usage by around 2/3 of a bucket per person, per day to reach the T155 target. These savings can easily be made by making small changes like taking shorter showers, washing with full loads of dishes or clothes, or fixing a leaking tap. This small effort will make a big difference in the long run.”
To view the Melbourne Water Outlook 2019, click here.
Victoria learnt a lot from the Millennium drought, including the negative impacts, some of them long-term, of implementing severe water restrictions. The Millennium Drought highlighted the extent to which urban areas rely on water for economic prosperity, community health and wellbeing and general liveability. Maintaining sufficient water in our storages avoids the need to consider the use of restrictions to reduce demand and reduces the impact of other extreme events like bushfires.
The water supply system is operated to maintain a buffer of water in storages, subject to cost, to secure our water supply against the next major drought, which could last for 10 or more years.
Melbourne’s water storages have never fully recovered from the millennium drought. The Thomson Reservoir, which represents 60 per cent of Melbourne’s total storage capacity, was close to 100 per cent full at the commencement of the drought in 1997 and is currently 60.3 per cent full.
The annual Melbourne Water Outlook is produced by City West Water, South East Water, Yarra Valley Water and Melbourne Water, detailing their approach to water resource management over the coming 12 months.