In Victoria, the use of biodiversity, carbon and salinity offsets are well established and commonly used in practice. However a formal, widely accepted approach for managing water quality offsets did not exist.

The Victorian Smart Water Fund engaged Alluvium to support the further development of a water quality offsets framework for the Victorian Water Industry. Central to development of the framework was consultation with stakeholders from across the Victorian water industry and state government agencies, including the EPA. Another important part of the project was exploration of case studies, in particular that of Western Water’s Gisborne Recycled Water Plant and the Jacksons Creek, into which the plant discharges.

The framework developed provides a support tool for the Victorian water industry. It describes how a water corporation can assess and implement potential options for offsetting the water quality impacts of wastewater discharges into waterways.

Such offset options might be considered in instances where water corporations face a significant challenge in meeting existing or projected EPA discharge licence conditions or recognise a genuine opportunity to deliver a net environmental benefit at a lower community cost. In many instances this will be driven by the potential to defer capital expenditure on infrastructure upgrades that might otherwise help meet some policy or regulatory driver.

The challenge is to provide sufficient confidence for the community and the regulators that the offset option does provide a ‘net benefit’ to the environment – it is not just a method of saving on expenditure