Melbourne’s demand for water is growing and our rivers are stressed and degraded. Energy intensive pipelines and desalination are not the answer so what is a city like Melbourne to do? Become a water sensitive city…
The combined impacts of population growth, drought and climate change have taken their toll on the Yarra and the Thomson rivers that supply Melbourne with water.
We've taken too much water from our rivers for too many years and left them stressed and degraded.
Becoming a water-sensitive city
While we're worrying about our dwindling water supply, a rainfall equal to Melbourne's total annual water use falls on our city every year. Then, it runs away unused through our stormwater drains.
This is a great opportunity for us to rethink our attitudes to water and the value we place on healthy rivers and take an important step towards turning our fair city into a 'water-sensitive city'. We can rethink the way we source, use and dispose of this precious resource.
A 'water-sensitive' city lives within its means by making more effective use of the water available - be it from rainwater, stormwater or recycled water. A water-sensitive city doesn't jeopardise the health of its rivers.
This type of diversified system would make us very resilient to future climate and economic shocks. And it would provide us with greater security by lessening our need to continually seek out new sources of water.
What does it take to create a water-sensitive city? Check out A Vision for a Water Sensitive City
The good news is the Victorian government has decided to come to the party and make this vision a reality.
Following the 2010 election the Coalition government set up the Office of Living Victoria specifically to look at how we can manage our urban water cycle better. They have recently released a draft plan called ‘Melbourne’s Water Future – a smarter way to manage our water’. And it is smarter – they have taken up many of the ideas Environment Victoria put forward five years ago in our ‘Water Security, Healthy Rivers: Environment Victoria's Vision for Melbourne’.
The government’s plan takes a new approach to the urban water cycle. It looks at how the different aspects (drinking water, rainwater, stormwater, wastewater, groundwater, natural waterways and green open spaces) are connected and can be made to work together. It aims to improve river health by reducing stormwater pollution and to reduce flood impacts, as well as reducing demand for drinking water and keeping water bills down.
Read our past submissions
We work hard to make sure our government knows that we want Melbourne to be a water-sensitive city. Here are some of our past submissions that you may find interesting.
Find out how we can protect the Yarra River and meet Melbourne's water needs, with our River Relief Report, April 2009
Read more about the International Study Tour – Water Sensitive Cities 2009
Submission to Environment Effects Statement for the Victorian Desalination Project, September 2008
Download our discussion paper on the desalination plant. Powering a desalination plant – clean energy or more coal? June 2008