Many billabongs in the Melbourne Water region have experienced reduced inundation frequency as a result of river regulation and urban development over the last century. The delivery of additional water to such billabongs has potential to substantially improve the condition of environmental values, as well as enhance liveability outcomes for the sites.

The Melbourne Water billabongs program has been delivering on priority actions in the Healthy Waterways Strategy to enable environmental water delivery to billabongs across the region. This program was guided by the development of an initial prioritisation process for investment in 2012.

Four years after the initial prioritisation, a review of the prioritisation approach was required to accommodate changes in Melbourne Water’s strategic direction. Specifically, in 2016 Melbourne Water were looking for a revised prioritisation that actively considered how environmental watering could enhance liveability outcomes. This refined prioritisation would optimise use of the environmental water reserve, to provide a range of co-benefits from watering. It would also ensure that billabong prioritisation was aligned with the direction of the Healthy Waterways Strategy and the associated Waterways Strategic Asset Management Plan.

Alluvium were engaged to develop and implement a refined method for prioritisation of the billabongs. This would then lead into the development of management objectives, environmental water regime requirements and watering delivery designs for two billabongs in the Yarra River corridor: Willsmere Billabong and Burke Road Billabong.

New liveability metrics were incorporated into the prioritisation process. This required a review of available data sources that could represent the potential liveability outcomes arising from greater investment in environmental watering at each billabong. Five new liveability criteria were analysed and ranked under the revised framework:

  • Amenity condition rating
  • Density of surrounding population
  • Accessibility to the public
  • Socio-economic status in surrounding area
  • Frequency of inundation and open water.