Melbourne’s future water supply cannot be guaranteed unless the State Government urgently improves river health and further reduces water consumption, the state’s leading green group has warned.
The warning comes as the Government today released its Central Sustainable Water Strategy discussion paper, which will set the water agenda for Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat.
“All the fresh water we use comes from rivers and waterways. Right now, those rivers and waterways are being bled dry from overuse, with 75% in poor or very poor health. The rivers around Melbourne include some of the most degraded in the state,” said EV’s Healthy Rivers Director Dr Paul Sinclair.
“The lazy, short-term option to deal with increasing demand for water would be to take more from degraded rivers. However, unless we guarantee river health, we can’t guarantee our water supplies. River health does not compete with our water supply, it guarantees it.”
Dr Sinclair said we cannot know how to protect rivers without full scientific studies. Previous government strategies for protecting Melbourne’s water supply have ignored the needs of rivers.
“Rivers must not be ignored again. The Government still hasn’t completed the scientific studies that will explain how much water rivers such as the Yarra, Werribee, Maribyrnong and Barwon need to be healthy.
“We can’t have a serious discussion about our future water needs without knowing how much water the environment needs.
“The Victorian Government has made commitments under the National Water Initiative to restore degraded rivers that have had too much water taken from them. We expect those commitments to be honored.”
He said the State Government should also further reduce water consumption – not just in households, but business as well – especially agriculture.
“We have done a great job saving water but as a recent CSIRO report showed current water use is unsustainable. Tied in with climate change* and the associated reduction in rainfall, we must – and can – save more water.
“Agriculture alone swallows 78% of our water. So big users in business have to be just as water-wise as householders.”