Water for our future

Environment Pillar

The Need

Our climate is getting hotter and drier.

Communities across Australia are experiencing less rainfall and more extreme heat, with Australia’s climate warming by 1.4 per cent since 1910.

Our changing climate is having a direct impact on the region’s water supply.

Since 1997, there has been a marked reduction in the amount of water being captured in local reservoirs.

For example, West Barwon reservoir, which helps supply greater Geelong, has seen a 32 per cent or 9 billion litre reduction in average annual inflows since 1997.

Lal Lal Reservoir, which supplies parts of Geelong has seen a 62 per cent or 6.8 billion litre reduction.

The West Gellibrand and Olangolah reservoirs, which supply water to Colac, have seen a 14 per cent or 1.4 billion litre, and 12 per cent and 1 billion litre reduction respectively.

The Bureau of Meteorology projects that over the coming decades there will be a further increase in temperatures, with more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cool days, and a decrease in cool-season rainfall across many regions of southern Australia, with more time spent in drought.

Additionally, hotter weather and less rain is driving up demand for water in our region.

Since the 1980s, the region’s water use has reduced by 20 per cent despite its population almost doubling in this time from 163,000 to more than 300,000 people. This has been achieved through a variety of measures including water efficiency and conservation, improved technology, behaviour change and the introduction of recycled water.

However, with more extreme heat events and less rainfall, there is an increased demand for water across the region. Since 2010, people in Geelong have increased their use of water by more than 20 per cent, from 172 litres per person, per day to 218 litres per person, per day.  Over the same period, people in Colac have increased their use of water from 261 litres per person, per day to 273 litres per person, per day.

As the region continues to prosper, its population is expected to double to 540,000 people by 2065. This could increase demand for water to more than 50,000 million litres a year, or more than 250 litres per person, per day on average across the region.

At the same time, it is forecast that Victoria will experience a median temperature increase of 1.9-2.6 degrees, annual rainfall will decline by a further 5 per cent and the water that flows in our waterways will reduce by a further 20 per cent by 2065.

Project Aims

With less rain expected to continue, now is the time to think differently about how the region uses water and where it comes from.

Water is integral to the current and continued economic, cultural, environmental and social wellbeing of the region.

Recognising this, Barwon Water’s Water for our Future program is asking the community, including regional leaders, industry, environmental groups and Traditional Owners, to join in the challenge and create a new water future that meets all of our needs and supports a prosperous region.

The Water for our Future program will develop a shared vision for the region’s water future and will generate ideas around how water will be used and sourced for years to come.

It will explore concepts about water from all sources; recycled water, stormwater, desalination, rivers and rainwater; and will identify how to best manage our water supply to maintain and enhance the liveability, prosperity and resilience of the G21 region.

Feedback across the region will be considered by two representative community panels. The first community panel will meet in early 2020 and use responses to develop a shared vision and criteria for our water future. Later in 2020, the second community panel will recommend a shortlist of ideas for Barwon Water to investigate further, based on that vision and criteria.

Contributions received throughout the process will inform Barwon Water’s Urban Water Strategy, a 50-year water plan.

Benefits for Victoria and the G21 region

The project will develop a long-term water plan for the G21 region that is community-led and reflects the values and aspirations of everyone who uses water in the region – Barwon Water’s next Urban Water Strategy.

The Urban Water Strategy will set out clear actions to deliver a reliable and sustainable water future that supports a healthy and prosperous region, including:

  • water to sustain a quality way-of-life for the region, enhancing its reputation as a great place to live, work and play
  • water to support a thriving agricultural and viticulture industries and continued investment in those industries
  • water to irrigate sport and recreation reserves and community open spaces, helping to promote healthy living and community cohesion
  • water to protect and sustain the environment and healthy rivers, waterways and ecosystems, ensuring responsible custodianship of the natural environment
  • water to support the tourism economy, which sees the region’s population increase from more than 320,000 permanent residents to 545,000 people during the peak holiday periods, bringing a significant economic boost to the region.

What is required?

  • Support for this innovative, co-design process that is underpinning the project. 
  • Upon completion of engagement, there will be funding opportunities for innovative ideas that have broad and far-reaching benefits.

A commitment to embed GROW training, employment and procurement principles in all government projects within the region.