Environment and climate change

Barwon Water is an environmental business. Our climate is changing, and so are we.

Our ability to provide reliable water is highly dependent on a stable climate. Plus, our core business activities are energy-intensive, so we are a major greenhouse gas contributor.

That’s why we’re making the switch to 100% renewable electricity, investing in innovative energy projects, and pledging to achieving zero net emissions by 2030.

A region of natural beauty

Our region is home to some of Australia’s most iconic natural environments and flora and fauna species. It includes the coastal environment of the Great Ocean Road, temperate rainforests of the Otway ranges, native grasslands of the volcanic plains, grassy woodlands of the Brisbane Ranges and the internationally-recognised Ramsar wetlands of the lower Barwon River.

Pristine catchments and waterways

Harvesting drinking water has a significant impact on waterways and their environs, and the groundwater-dependent ecosystems linked to underground aquifers.

Our aim is to minimise the environmental impact of supplying water to protect and enhance our catchments.

Land rich in natural biodiversity

Many of our asset and infrastructure sites are rich in biodiversity.

When we plan and construct new infrastructure and manage our land, we aim to protect, enhance and restore land and biodiversity values.

Adapting to a changing climate

Our climate is predicted to get hotter and drier, driving water demand up and supply down. Rainfall into our reservoirs is modelled to reduce by 7% by 2040. We also face the likelihood of extreme and unpredictable weather and increased risk from storms and bushfire.

Here are just a few of the things we’re already doing to prepare for the possible impacts of climate change:

  • Water for Our Future – working in partnership with our community and regional leaders to design a new sustainable and climate resilient water future for our region.
  • Diversifying our drinking water sources, including the Melbourne Geelong pipeline and Anglesea borefield.
  • Harnessing alternative water sources such as Class A recycled water for Armstrong Creek and Torquay.
  • Upgrading our infrastructure for better resilience to extreme weather.
  • Working with regional and sector partners to develop targeted climate change research, development and innovation.
  • Supporting water efficient behaviour by customers.

Cutting our carbon footprint

Treating and transporting water and sewage is an energy-intensive business. We previously emitted more than 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence a year, making us one of the biggest local contributors to greenhouse gases.

We need to be part of the solution – not the problem – so we’re taking the lead on climate action. That’s why we’re committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and zero net emissions by 2030.

Every day we’re reducing our emissions by making our operations more energy efficient and by designing new and upgraded infrastructure with zero emissions in mind.

We are part of the United Nations Race to Zero, “a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth”.

100% Renewable electricity

Previously more than 80% of our emissions came from electricity. We’re well on our way to 100% renewable, zero-emission electricity through our program of solar, hydro, waste-to-energy, wind and energy storage projects, partnering with organisations and local businesses.

In 2020–2021, our renewable energy projects supplied 9.2 gigawatt-hours (GWh), 29% of our electricity needs. Note this is in addition to the renewable portion of grid electricity achieved through the federal renewable energy target.

ProjectDescriptionAnnual volume (up to)Status

Black Rock solar farm

3,000 kilowatt solar farm. The first megawatt-scale solar installation in the Australian water industry. Directly supplies up to 35% of electricity used by the Black Rock Water Reclamation Plant, which services a population of 265,000 people.

4.4 GWh

Stage 1 complete 2018

Stage 2 complete 2019

Wurdee Boluc solar and battery

300-kilowatt solar array, supplying around 40% of the water treatment plant’s annual electricity use. Coupled with this is a 200 kilowatt-hour, 180-kilovolt-ampere battery energy storage system.

0.4 GWh

Completed 2019

Torquay solar

240-kilowatt solar array located next to our water storage in Torquay, opposite the new 7-star Torquay Salt residential development on our old basin site.

0.3 GWh

Completed 2018

Kadak depot solar

80-kilowatt rooftop solar array on our depot in Breakwater.

0.1 GWh

Completed 2018

Colac Renewable Organics Network (RON)

An Australian-first waste-to-energy and renewable heat supply network built on the concept of a circular-economy. Generating electricity and heat using biogas methane produced by our Colac Water Reclamation Plant’s anaerobic treatment of local trade-waste customer discharges. Stage 1: 360-kilowatt biogas-powered generator. Stage 2: additional 550 kilowatts generation capacity and heat network.

5.5 GWh (electricity and heat)

Stage 1 complete 2021

Stage 2 in commissioning 2024

Montpellier mini-hydro

Re-commissioning the 135-kilowatt mini-hydro turbine at the Montpellier Basins in Highton, harnessing gravitational energy in water received from the Moorabool Water Treatment Plant.

1.0 GWh

Completed 2019

Zero Emissions Water PPA

A first-of-its-kind partnership of twelve Victorian water corporations, buying renewable electricity via a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the 200 megawatt Kiamal Solar Farm in north-west Victoria.

7.6 GWh

Operational 2021

Barwon Renewable Energy Partnership (BREP) PPA

An initiative of Barwon Water, Barwon Health and GeelongPort, who joined forces to secure a long-term renewable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm, located between Geelong and Colac.

45 GWh

Operational 2022

Zero net emissions

By 2025 we will have switched our dominant source of emissions, grid electricity, to 100% renewable zero emissions sources.

To achieve our 2030 target of zero net emissions we will tackle the remainder of our operational emissions. These emissions are directly produced as a by-product of wastewater treatment processes, representing over 80% of our residual emissions, and from fuel combustion in heavy vehicles, passenger vehicles, plant and equipment.

Whilst we will continue to optimise our wastewater treatment processes, leveraging water industry innovation, research and development, a significant portion of these emissions will be unavoidable. Fuel combustion emissions are also expected to reduce over time as electric vehicles roll-out.

To address our remaining emissions, we will implement a carbon sequestration program together with our regional and industry partners. Targeted revegetation, carbon plantations and soil improvement will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to a solid, in trees, roots and other biomass.