Maintaining water security¹ is essential for water corporations to provide water services to the Victorian community. Victoria is experiencing a warming and drying trend due to climate change that is reducing the availability of water, and rapid population growth (notwithstanding a pause due to COVID-19) that increases demand for water. These pressures are challenging the industry to maintain water security.
Sustainable Water Strategies (SWSs) are the most effective, long-term mechanism to respond to water security challenges and provide a forum to manage the competition between multiple users for a finite and potentially diminishing resource. Managing this competition will require stronger and more integrated water resource planning processes that include robust decision-making and efficient and sustainable investments in infrastructure. It also requires effective cooperation between water corporations, different levels of government, industry stakeholders and the community.
Water corporations already face significant challenges with trade-offs between investing in water security and liveability and keeping water prices affordable. These challenges are compounded by the long lead times required to develop new infrastructure. The industry learned some important lessons during the Millennium Drought and must apply these lessons to meet the water security challenges of the future.
¹ Water security is the ability to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related diseases, and for preserving ecosystems (see https://www.unwater.org/publications/water-security-infographic/), in light of climate change and population growth.
Victoria has resilient water systems that maintain water security.
The Victorian water industry has a shared understanding of water security that reflects the perspectives of multiple users (urban, rural, industrial, environment, recreation, Traditional Owners, and others).
The central role of water corporations in achieving water security is reflected in policy, regulation and Victorian Government engagement with the community.
- The industry recognises and promotes the central role of Victoria’s water corporations in making planning decisions to maintain water security in the best interests of their communities.
- SWSs must integrate the long-term visions and plans of water corporations developed in partnership with their communities, including Urban Water Strategies and Integrated Water Management Plans.
- Costs and price implications, community preferences and customer willingness-to-pay must be considered in developing SWSs.
- SWSs and Urban Water Strategies need to include adaptive planning and readiness options, ensure all options are carefully and fully assessed on their merits, and promote community understanding of water security.
- Water corporations, regulators and other stakeholders should work together to incentivise the flexible use of alternative and sustainable water sources so that we are not single-point dependent.
- Industrial and agricultural users need greater certainty regarding water availability.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), notably Water and Catchments Group
Water industry regulators, including the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
Serving our customers and communities (supply, customer service)
Responsible environmental stewardship (sustainability)
Good governance (subsidiarity)