Water supply and use

Water for life

Sufficient and secure water supply is essential for Melbourne being a vibrant, liveable and sustainable city now and in the future.

Melbourne has some of the highest-quality drinking water in the world due largely to having healthy and protected water catchments. Melbourne is one of only a few major cities in which most of its drinking water comes from protected catchments which have limited public access to minimise water quality risks. Our water supply catchments provide most of the potable supply for 75 percent of Victoria’s population, as well as many other economic, social and environmental benefits.

However, significant planning and action is required to equip the region to meet two major challenges for the future: population growth and declining water availability.

With a population of around 5 million in this region now, Melbourne’s total annual water consumption is already outstripping average annual inflows. The gap is currently being filled with desalination water. The region’s population is projected to keep growing well above its current level which will further increase demand.

While population and water demand grow, long-term climate projections show a trend towards warmer and drier conditions, with less rainfall on average and more variability year to year. As a result, the amount of water flowing into rivers and dams is declining. Streamflows are projected to decline by a further 8 to 22 per cent by 2065 under a medium climate change scenario, or by up to 40 per cent under a high climate change scenario.

Over the next 50 years significant challenges in water supply must be overcome:

  • due to rapid population growth water supplies will need to double just to meet demand in cities and towns across the wider region.
  • historic water injustices for Traditional Owners, who have long been excluded from water management decisions and water ownership in Victoria, must be remedied.
  • additional water is also essential for the environment if we are to prevent further decline in the health of many rivers, and water quality must be protected to support a wide range of uses.

To achieve all of these aims, it is expected that the region will need to make greater use of manufactured water sources, such as desalinated water and fit-for-purpose recycled water, as well as stormwater.