The Water Cycle Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan is one of 7 plans prepared by the Victorian Government for 7 statewide systems. The plans will help ensure Victoria’s climate resilience, now and into the future.
The Water Cycle system involves the collection, storage, treatment, delivery and supply of water, as well as services for managing wastewater, drainage and flooding. The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the Water Cycle system and are likely to increase. As Victoria becomes warmer and drier, less runoff will reach rivers, streams, dams, and groundwater. Addressing the impacts of climate change is important due to our reliance on climate-dependent sources of water found in reservoirs, rivers, lakes and groundwater.
Victoria’s water corporations operate and maintain more than $48 billion of infrastructure, with asset lives of up to 100 years. Climate change sits alongside other pressures on water resources, such as population growth and changing economic conditions. If we don’t adapt effectively to climate change, we could experience:
- less water available for the environment, community and businesses
- increased prices for water services
- damage to the infrastructure needed for essential water and wastewater services
- restrictions on the water for recreation and private gardens
- drainage being overwhelmed, increasing flood damage and sewer spills
- peaks in water demand during heatwaves that could exceed the capacity of available water.
The Water Cycle system is also central to many opportunities to address climate change – for example, through converting wastewater to energy to support a circular economy, or through recycling, water to augment the existing water supply. Nature-based solutions can also offer multiple benefits – for example, planting vegetation along waterways can reduce flood impacts, improve water quality and help shade the surrounding environment.
Work already underway
- Providing leadership on water and adaptation through Water for Victoria (the long-term plan for the water sector) and the one-off Pilot Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2018–2020 which outlined 20 unique adaptation actions.
- Investing more than $2.7 billion in water infrastructure over the past decade to improve water efficiency and reliability in regional communities.
- Preparing an annual water outlook to inform the community on the management of different water uses under forecast conditions.
- Providing hydrology and climate science for Victoria’s water sector and supporting citizen science.
- Delivering regional catchment strategies that prioritise ongoing stewardship of catchments through local and regional partnerships between catchment management authorities, Traditional Owners and the broader community.
- Implementing urban water strategies and drought preparedness plans developed by urban water corporations to manage systems during extremely dry periods and water quality events.
- Collaborating with industry to invest in improved knowledge, pilot new technologies and stress-test the water grid.
- Collaborating on place-based management of all elements of the water cycle through integrated water management forums.
- Providing rebates and education campaigns for vulnerable customers, schools and communities to use water more efficiently and save on water bills.
- Coordinating state-level responses to manage algal blooms.
- Improving the resilience of water and flood monitoring stations as part of Victoria’s Bushfire Recovery Plan.
- Financing investments in water corporations using green bonds, primarily to reduce emissions through treatment plant upgrades and renewable energy installation.
Key priorities ahead
The next 5 years (2022–2026) will be focused on integrating climate change adaptation across all aspects of the Water Cycle system.
- Investigate ways to diversify and augment water supplies, including by enabling greater use of stormwater and recycled water.
- Examine co-investment opportunities to deliver water infrastructure with the community, private investors and government partners.
- Enhance climate-related hazard and risk assessment capabilities to support water infrastructure planning, design and investment decisions.
- Identify opportunities to strengthen the water sector’s emergency capability, systems and processes for resource sharing.
- Prioritise greater Traditional Owner participation in water cycle adaptation.
- Explore new water efficiency standards for homes and review existing building and plumbing requirements for rainwater tanks and water efficiency.
- Promote innovation to reduce Victoria's water-related emissions across households and businesses, build climate resilience and transition to a circular economy, including by trialling measures to reduce water-related energy use.
The vision, key objectives, and all 21 outcomes to be delivered under the Adaptation Action Plan 2022-26
Victoria’s water cycle system continues to support a healthy environment, prosperous economy, and resilient communities under a changing climate
- Diverse water supplies
- Resilient infrastructure and water assets
- Operational resilience and efficiency
- Engaged community
- Orderly transition
- Investigate ways to enable greater uptake of stormwater and recycled water
- Consider all water supply options in updates to relevant water supply planning and use guidelines
- Deliver feasible water infrastructure projects in collaboration with community, water customers and government partners
- Investigate augmentation options to secure water supplies for greater Melbourne and surrounds
- Enhance climate-related hazard and risk assessment capabilities to inform water infrastructure planning, design and investment decisions
- Review Victoria’s emergency water supply point network every five years and clarify the responsibility of regional agencies to provide operations and maintenance of any new or upgraded emergency water supply points prior to state government investment
- Support the built environment system to reflect fit for purpose flood risk data across relevant planning mechanisms
- Consistently incorporate climate adaptation and land use planning into integrated water management plans
- Support the natural environment system to consider a climate adaptation lens in the renewal of the Victorian Waterway Management Strategy
- Identify opportunities to strengthen the water sector’s emergency capability, systems, and processes for resource sharing
- Trial the application of a framework to understand future changes in algal risks across Victorian water bodies and centralise knowledge sharing to manage these risks
- Develop a framework to support the embedment of climate change within water sector decisions
- Define, benchmark and monitor resilience of the water sector over time
- Develop a monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement framework for the water cycle AAP program
- Support opportunities for Traditional Owner self-determination in climate adaptation planning and implementation across the water cycle system
- Develop an iterative climate change communication strategy for the water cycle system
- Continue researching climate change impacts on the water cycle system in collaboration with other AAP systems
- Progress measures aimed at reducing energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions related to water use within households and businesses
- Review existing rainwater tank and water efficiency building and plumbing requirements
- Investigate a framework to better recognise complementary benefits in water sector adaptation projects
Access the full plan and more
The Water Cycle Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan will be delivered over the next 5 years (2022–2026), then updated every 5 years on the path to 2050.
Find out more on how Victoria is tackling climate change.
Page last updated: 13/11/23