Planning for our water future
The Urban Water Strategy identifies the best mix of actions to provide water services now and into the future. In developing the Strategy, we considered the impacts of population growth (increased demand for water), climate change (reduced water availability) and other risks over 50 years on our ability to supply water to our customers and treat wastewater for reuse.
Read our Urban Water Strategy (PDF 3MB)
Our resources depend on the climate, which means that water demand, storages and sources need to be carefully managed to ensure supply.
The impacts of climate change are expected to result in a drier, hotter climate that will reduce available water from traditional resources and affect the quality of that water.
Our future climate is projected to pose a significant risk to communities in the region. Coupled with population growth, the impacts of climate change need to be considered; we need to plan for a future with a much larger population and less water than we have today.
The Victorian Government, via the Minister for Water, has set clear expectations that water corporations need to respond to climate change through both mitigation (towards zero net emissions) and adaptation (continuing to provide water services in a changing climate).
Given the water sector is responsible for the largest proportion of government carbon emissions, we can provide leadership on climate change. We can support residential and commercial customers to reduce carbon emissions and water usage, and collaborate with other sectors for more effective mitigation and adaptation responses.
This strategy is underpinned by our climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as best-practice guidance from the Victorian government. We have undertaken detailed scenario modelling of water availability and used this to inform the strategy. Data is reviewed annually using the latest climate science and scenario analysis in water resource modelling. In addition, we continually monitor the quality of water drawn from reservoirs, waterways, and groundwater, which can be affected by events such as blue algae outbreaks and bushfires – likely to exacerbated by climate change. We are implementing management measures to respond, including catchment protection measures, active operational management, and ongoing upgrading of our treatment systems.
1. We will deliver initiatives within our Annual Carbon and Energy Plans to achieve the target of net zero carbon by 2030.
2. We will ensure that Water Treatment Plants are resilient in managing raw water quality changes associated with changing climate conditions and continue to deliver safe and consistent water to customers.
Water underpins social health and wellbeing and has a strong impact on the types and success of industries that can operate in the region. Population growth, driven by lifestyle, proximity to Melbourne and strong transport links, impacts on water demand and supply.
Many urban populations are growing quickly, with the City of Greater Bendigo forecast to grow from 116,568 in 2018 to 155,596 by 2036. There is similar growth in the towns to the south of the region. However, there is uneven distribution of population across the region, and smaller communities will also require quality water and sewerage services to enable their prosperity.
The challenge for us is to ensure all communities and industries are supported by sustainable services.
We undertakes scenario modelling that considers the potential range of population growth that will influence future demand. We undertake regular reviews of population growth and work closely with Councils to understand how we can continue to service the growing region. Town Visions for major centres have been developed that examine how service to new customers over the next 50+ years will be delivered. This helps to give a better understanding of the complex factors contributing to future demand and aids planning.
Making the most of the resources that are available is also critical to managing demand and supporting a prosperous region.
- We will plan for the replacement and upgrade of infrastructure as needed, to accommodate a growing customer base.
- We will continue to work with local councils and North Central Catchment Management Authority to sustainably manage growth in the region and protect the environmental value of our catchments.
- We will support the development of employment opportunities in the region (such as the Bendigo Regional Employment Precinct).
Communities in the region have made it clear that on top of high-quality water services, they expect us to support regional liveability, reduce our environmental footprint and be a more socially responsible organisation.
There is increasing acknowledgement that Traditional Owners have cultural, spiritual and economic connections to land and water. All water corporations need to consider Aboriginal values and objectives for water, and improve access to water for Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians in order to provide opportunities for economic development.
The community of this relatively dry region expects us to support recreational values of their water assets for activities including fishing, boating and swimming. We can work with other organisations to plan and manage access to water assets.
We strive to be recognised as customer-focused and community-minded. The feedback we have received from customers has been important in the development of the UWS, helping to inform the levels of service we provide our customers and when action is needed ensure demand is met. Each year we report in the Annual Water Outlook the water security position and progression on actions arising from the previous UWS.
- We will continue to engage with customers on issues such as pricing and water security to inform our decision making.
- We will update the community on our water security status and forecast each year by publishing the Annual Water Outlook.
Our communities and stakeholders have an interest in considering innovative ways to supply quality water and sewerage services. The Water for Victoria plan also encourages technological, organisational and operational innovation focussed on improving supply of a resource facing increased future demand and reduced availability.
Innovation may take the form of investing in areas for public good where the private sector is reluctant to be involved, or it could involve a system wide review to find opportunities for improvement in a ‘business as usual’ operating environment. It could also involve conceptualising future infrastructure differently.
The digital metering program commenced in 2018 and is expected to take six years to complete. In this program water usage data is looked out to identify ways we can make our services more efficient.
Significant savings have been identified since project inception. We are pursuing innovative ways to maintain our water security position.
- Managed aquifer recharge
- Optimise management of available resources
- Wastewater recycling
- Purchasing of additional water shares
- Water auditing and efficiency programs
- Reducing channel leakage
This has helped to provide flexibility in our water resource operations and to delay major infrastructure works.
1. We will pursue opportunities that contribute to ongoing innovation in water efficiency measures, such as through the digital metering and leak detection programs.
2. We will continue to consider projects that provide an additional water resource, energy saving or community benefit, such as managed aquifer recharge.
We respectfully acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and water on which all Australians rely. We pay our respects to Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung, Yorta Yorta, Barapa Barapa, their Elders past, present and future, as Traditional Owners and the custodians of the land and water on which we rely and operate.
We acknowledge and respect the continued cultural, social and spiritual connections of all Aboriginal Victorians. We also acknowledge the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and their connections with lands and waters and recognise and value their inherent responsibility to care for and protect them for thousands of generations.
We acknowledge Aboriginal Victorians as Traditional Owners and, in the spirit of reconciliation, we remain committed to working in partnership with Traditional Owners to ensure meaningful, ongoing contributions to the future of land and water management.
We have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan to further develop knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to build relationships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Our first Reconciliation Action Plan aims to provide a foundation for ongoing reconciliation efforts. The Reconciliation Action Plan will enable us to contribute to greater awareness and respect for the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, values, cultures and ideas. It is a guide for how we will work towards achieving outcomes including a more culturally respectful workforce. We are currently working on developing our second Reconciliation Action Plan.
We hold monthly meetings with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation to discuss projects, works and other current issues.
- We will recognise Traditional Owner values and include these values in water planning. We will also work in partnership to generate economic opportunities through supporting their access to water.
- We will have a second Reconciliation Action Plan endorsed by Reconciliation Australia and commence implementation (2-year lifespan) by June 2022.
- We will, through conversations, listening and understanding be able to translate tangible initiatives that support self-determination into Pricing Submissions, UWA and future Corporate Plans for engaged Traditional owner groups by 2022.
There are clear benefits in working with the various stakeholders that have a role in delivering water cycle services. As our region grows and evolves, the integration of land and water planning is critical to ensure places are sustainable and liveable.
As part of an Integrated Water Management (IWM) approach, we participate in forums and look for opportunities for integrated planning and alternative water resources that deliver wider benefits to the community.
We make the most of available water resources, we focus on water efficiency, and we embrace the use of recycled water, stormwater and rainwater to underpin regional prosperity. We will continue to implement demand management measures such as:
- Reduction of water losses from assets using tools such as pressure zones and addressing leaks.
- Community education
- Continue with incentive schemes to improve domestic appliance efficiency, commercial and industrial water use, and capturing rainwater.
- We will continue to partner with key stakeholders in the Integrated Water Management Forums.
- We will continue to work with local government to identify priority community spaces for watering during severe drought.
- We will partner with key stakeholders and major water users to reduce water demand where it is suitable to do so.
- We will continue to implement demand management measures.
- We will encourage fit-for-purpose alternative water sources, such as recycled water, to offset potable water demand wherever possible.
We are committed to the philosophy and practices of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Water resource management must balance the needs of competing uses, including the needs of the environment.
It is recognised that some waterways, such as the Coliban River, would benefit from additional environmental flows, particularly as the impacts of climate change potentially reduce stream flows across the region in the future.
We harvest water in accordance with the conditions of bulk entitlement agreements, which prioritise flows for the environment. We also work with stakeholders to co-ordinate releases from storages to provide the greatest benefit to the environment with the resources available.
Long-term resource assessments and Sustainable Water Strategies planned by the Victorian Government in coming years will identify priorities for environmental water. We are committed to exploring further opportunities to help meet those needs.
- We will work with the North Central Catchment Management Authority, Victorian Environmental Water Holder and Aboriginal groups to explore further opportunities to operate our headworks systems so that environmental and Aboriginal values are supported.
- We will further consider the impact of environmental water flows from headworks, particularly with respect to the Coliban River.
- We will proactively monitor, operate and upgrade water reclamation plants to identify and address environmental risks.
- We will commit to projects to resolve odour issues at our Bendigo and Castlemaine Water Reclamation Plants.
- We will explore the environmental benefit of releases from our water reclamation plants and how this informs the volume of water available for recycling.
Customer feedback was key in developing our UWS. We held sessions throughout our region asking for survey responses that helped develop the UWS.
Customers said water security was the single most important issue facing their town. When asked about water restrictions and the level of appropriate restrictions, over 90 per cent of customers indicated there was a place for stage 4 restrictions in the event of severe drought or low levels in our storages.
This feedback has contributed to the chosen level of service for each of our systems and impacts the timing of our planning and proposed actions.
This document provides the list of options being considered in water supply systems where there is a gap between supply and demand now or into the future. Community feedback on these options will help to shape final recommendations.
Another lesson from the initial survey of customers was the range of responses to questions around where the town water supply comes from and where and how wastewater is beneficially re-used. This highlights the need for more information on our water and wastewater systems.
- We will strive to improve water literacy among customers with an aim to increase knowledge of how water savings can be achieved in each household.
- We will, when storages are low, utilise water restrictions as a method of reducing demand and conserving water.
We sought input from the community and our key partners to understand the values each of us places on the water in our region. These values and ideas have been incorporated into this Strategy and help to shape our proposed actions and recommendations.
The adaptive Strategy is revised every five years and provides an opportunity for our customers and community to provide new feedback on what we have planned. It also allows us to consider any additional information from our key partners, including changes in legislation, updated council growth plans and updates on predicted future climate information around expected future climate conditions. Each year we also release our Annual Water Outlook that provides information on our water security position and how we are tracking against priority actions highlighted within this strategy.
It's crucial we plan how we will adapt to meet these challenges and support the development of resilient and liveable communities while balancing social, environmental, and economic costs and benefits.