Stormwater Policy

Stormwater Policy

6.07.2011 - Posted by Rob Catchlove
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has recently released a competitive grant round for ‘Stormwater harvesting and reuse projects’. There is $100 million available under this round (following $200 million already), and this time the Australian Government is seeking bigger projects with a minimum application of $1 million (or a $2 million project). The core aims of the program are:
  • improving the security of water supplies in Australia, without adding to greenhouse gas emissions
  • reducing the demand for potable water supplies
  • helping to reduce the impact of urban runoff on the ecological condition of receiving waters by protecting or improving water quality and the hydrological regime (e.g. protecting low flows and reducing the impact of high flows)
It is interesting that urban flooding issues are now included in this round, but how stormwater management and reducing potable supplies make a difference to flooding is not that clear. Stormwater programs are generally going to make only a tiny difference to flooding, and demand management is far more effective in reducing the demand for potable supplies.

In Victoria the State Government released a ‘Living Victoria, Living Melbourne road map’ a few months ago. It states the policy has three objectives:
  • establishing Victoria as a world leader in liveable cities and integrated water cycle management
  • driving generational change in how Melbourne uses rainwater, stormwater and recycled water to provide better water services and reduce Victoria’s footprint with regard to energy and water use
  • driving integrated projects and developments in Melbourne and regional cities to use stormwater, rainwater and recycled water to postpone Victoria’s next major water augmentation
Similar to the federal program there is a lack of overall detail to help us understand the thinking. It appears stormwater is becoming a more central part of the urban water system, but exactly how this works and what is meant by ‘integrated water cycle management’ and ‘generational change’ is yet to be determined. I believe that these issues are being worked on, but the lack of direction and detail around stormwater policy isn’t healthy for the community. Let’s hope it clears soon.

We need to ensure we learn from the past where well-funded programs failed to plan properly which resulted in disastrous outcomes. Stormwater management is more complex than many of these programs and there is a risk that if money isn’t targeted properly then it won’t contribute to better integrated water outcomes.