The past month has seen the release of two important strategy documents for the Victorian water sector.
The Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy outlines policy directions and actions that will be vitally important in ensuring that this region – which provides drinking water to 90% of Victorians as well as water for business, agriculture and industry – is able to meet current and emerging water challenges over the next 50 years, to secure long-term water supply for Victoria. The Strategy highlights the need for an orderly transition away from reliance on river water to a greater reliance on manufactured water, including recycled water and desalination. It suggests that by 2070, 80% of Greater Melbourne’s water supply might come from manufactured water sources, compared with 35% now.
Community education and engagement will be a critical factor underpinning the successful implementation of the Strategy, and there is an important role for both government and industry to provide clear and consistent messaging to customers and the public. There is a risk that with three consecutive years of La Nina events, many Victorians are not particularly concerned about water security. So it’s encouraging to see coverage of the Strategy in mainstream media pointing out that current dam levels are not an indicator of future levels, and there is an ongoing need for water efficiency (‘Melbourne’s dams are full to the brim – but don’t go having 20 minute showers’ The Age, 2 October 2022).
Also released in September, Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap sets out a pathway for increased Traditional Owner participation in water planning and management in Victoria. The first part of the Roadmap contains a series of policy commitments by Government aimed at increasing Traditional Owner decision-making and access to water. The second part of the Roadmap comprises Nation Statements submitted by Traditional Owner groups, in their own words and published without alteration, expressing their water-related values, goals and aspirations. For me, the Nation Statements are really the heart of the Roadmap, and reading them has greatly improved my understanding of the deep and indivisible connection to land and water which is inherent in First Nations peoples.