Urban Water Strategy 2022: Water for our Future

After more than two years of working with customers, the community and stakeholders to co-design a water future that balances all of our needs, Barwon Water has finalised its 2022 Urban Water Strategy: Water for our Future.

The strategy has been informed by more than 600 ideas shared during Water for our Future’s community engagement, where more than 5,000 community members participated in the program to help find new sources of water and be more efficient with the water we have.

It outlines adaptive plans to ensure a secure water future for each of the systems in our region, based on what our community has told us is important to them.

Urban Water Strategy 2022: Water for our Future (PDF 21.6 MB)

What is Water for our Future?

With less rain and a hotter climate, it’s time to think differently about how we use water and where it comes from. How can we create a new water future that balances all our needs?

Through Water for our Future, Barwon Water partnered with the community and regional leaders to design a new water future for our region.

The program allowed us to draw on the insights, experiences and ideas of people from across our region to create a water future that harnesses the value of water to support liveable and prosperous communities and a healthy environment for years to come.

Our challenge

Our climate is changing; it is getting hotter and drier.

Less rainfall has a direct impact on our region’s water supplies.

A warmer and drier climate also affects our region’s environment – reduced flows down rivers creates stress on our waterways and ecosystems plus longer, drier summers affect liveability.

Demand for water is increasing: we need to find or save up to 5 billion litres of water – over and above the 35 billion litres our region currently uses – every five years for the next 50 years.

This challenge presented an exciting opportunity to rethink where our water comes from and how we use water and design a new water future for our region.

A future that not only ensures enough water comes out of the tap, but also harnesses the value of water to support healthy, sustainable, liveable and prosperous communities now and for years to come.

Community panel

The Water for our Future Community Panel met 11 times from October 2020 to November 2021 to consider how to create a new water future that balances all our needs.

The panel, made up of up to 521 randomly-selected people representing the diversity of our region:

  • developed a vision for our water future
  • suggested criteria to assess different ideas for how we might use and find water in the future
  • considered different options for Barwon Water to consider over the next 50 years.

The panel recommended a wide range of options, including solutions relating to better design and planning, changing behaviour, improving efficiency and sourcing extra water for a variety of purposes through roof water, stormwater, greywater, recycled water and desalination.

Looking ahead to the next 50 years, the panel envisioned a secure water future with innovative, sustainable and affordable water solutions for the region and less reliance over time on traditional and rainfall dependent sources of water, like rivers and groundwater.

Combined, the options recommended by the panel could save or find more than 100 billion litres of water in the future, which is double the amount of water the region would need even under a worst-case scenario.

1. 60 people were originally randomly-selected for the Water for our Future Community Panel, however a number of people were unable to participate for all of the panel sessions.

Community vision

The first task of the Water for our Future Community Panel was to develop a vision for our water future. The vision was adopted by Barwon Water in November 2020. Our water future is...

A secure future where our rivers flow, our foods grow and our impact is low.

Resilient, innovative and sustainable, with abundant water from a range of sources and where we actively protect and improve water for the environment.

Ethical, healthy and responsible, with affordable and equitable access for everyone.

A shared responsibility, by valuing and conserving water and respecting the diverse needs of our community, cultures, and the environment.

The process

To help guide their discussions, the panel considered a wide range of information about our changing climate and the impact it is having on the amount of water we collect from rainfall.

The panel heard from, and asked questions of, more than 20 independent experts including Traditional Owners, and specialists in the fields of climate science, national and international water policy, town planning, water research and innovation, climate economics, and environmental science.

The panel also received “background reports” from Barwon Water to help with their deliberations. The first background report provided detailed information about what we do, the systems we manage, the challenge we face and our response. The second assessed a range of representative options against the criteria and vision developed by the panel during its first round of meetings.

Water for our Future community panel background report 1 (PDF 10.3 MB)

Water for our Future community panel background report 2 (PDF 14.3 MB)

The final panel session

The panel met for its final session on Sunday 28 November 2021, to provide feedback on the draft Water for Our Future Strategy.

Overall, the panel members were very positive about both the 5-year and 50-year actions proposed in the draft strategy, with 60% saying “love it” and 40% of participants saying “like it” when asked if the strategy reflected the vision they had developed in November 2020.

The panel provided important feedback for us to consider, particularly around making sure our region has certainty around access to water if a new, shared desalination plant is built to meet Victoria’s future water needs.

What we heard

We set out to understand and explore the full range of possible options that could help address the challenge we face. We identified hundreds of ideas that could help us find more water or use water smarter.

These ideas came from:

  • our community – contributions at our face-to face and online engagement activities (pre-Covid 19 restrictions), including our “Ideas Lab” (an online forum that enabled the community to post and discuss new ideas)
  • our staff – ideas from previous strategies and plans together with new ideas from staff who are experts about how our systems operate
  • independent experts – technical reports and gap analysis undertaken by qualified experts.

The reports below summarise ideas and feedback we received from our community during each phase of the Water for our Future program.