Climate change, population growth and ageing assets present potential longer-term water security problems for Melbourne. Climate-independent water supply sources can help address the problem.
Melbourne’s Eastern Treatment Plant produces over 130 billion litres of recycled water each year. Currently, about 95% (123 billion litres) of this water is treated and safely discharged into the Bass Strait.
There is an opportunity to re-use more of this water to safely irrigate high‑value horticulture crops, parks, sporting fields and green open space, rather than using potable water for these purposes.
This can reduce overall demand for potable water and contribute to Melbourne’s water supply security. Other potential benefits include reducing urban heat effects and increasing amenity, recreation, health, environmental and irrigated agriculture benefits.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that the urban water sector faces considerable risks, including the impacts of climate change, population growth, ageing assets, and changing needs and expectations of users.
The initiative could be addressed through a program of water infrastructure, planning, policy and management interventions to realise the value of rainfall-independent supply sources in South East Melbourne, and potentially other parts of Melbourne as well.
Proponent to identify initiatives and develop options (Stage 2 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework).