Water quality

We provide world-standard, high-quality, safe drinking water for our customers.

In accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003, we have a water quality risk management plan in place to ensure drinking water meets quality standards. We also maintain a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified drinking water quality management system, covering the entire water supply system from catchment to taps.

If you have questions or concerns about your drinking water, please contact us.

Intended Use

Drinking water supplied by Barwon Water must meet obligations under the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and corresponding regulations. The intended use of drinking water supplied by Barwon Water is:

  • immediate consumption by the public, with no further treatment or boiling by the consumer necessary for it to reasonably be considered safe and of good quality
  • other domestic and commercial uses where the requirements for these other applications do not exceed our government obligations
  • not intended for immediate consumption by immune-compromised or other high-risk groups

In supplying drinking water, Barwon Water considers the latest developments in drinking water quality research and Australian best practice for operating water supply systems.

Drinking water supplied by Barwon Water must meet strict water quality standards as per the Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2015 and Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).

The ADWGs “take account of the needs of an individual through a normal lifetime, including changes in sensitivity that may occur between life stages” and recommend that “sensitive sub-populations (including those who are severely immuno-compromised) should seek further medical advice”.

Annual Drinking Water Quality Report

We publish an Annual Drinking Water Quality Report that provides an overview of our supply system, our risk management processes, and water quality performance for the financial year.

Water quality testing

To maintain quality throughout our entire water supply system, we employ an independent, NATA-accredited laboratory to undertake comprehensive quality testing.

As part of this testing, we monitor our:

  • water sources (such as rivers, creeks, reservoirs and aquifers),
  • treated water at our treatment plants, and
  • distributed water through our network of tanks, basins and pipes, and at customers’ taps.

Our water is measured against a range of parameters to ensure quality and safety, including:

  • microbes
  • disinfection by-products
  • treatment by-products
  • fluoride
  • turbidity
  • hardness
  • colour
  • pH
  • electrical conductivity
  • pesticides
  • heavy metals

Water quality results

Water quality issues

We’re lucky to have some of the most pristine catchments in Australia, however, customers may occasionally experience issues with their water quality. While these issues may affect the appearance, taste or odour of your water, most pose no health risks.

Discoloured looking water

Unusual tastes or odours

The way we perceive tastes and odours in food and drink is very complex and completely personal. For example, it might depend on what food and drink you have consumed that day, if you add salt to your diet, or even if you are wearing perfume or aftershave.

We have five different tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami (savoury). We perceive other flavours through receptors in our nose, rather than our mouth and tongue. This is why you usually find it easier to swallow unpleasant medicines while holding your nose.

Water hardness

Water hardness is a measure of naturally occurring calcium and magnesium dissolved in water.

Water across our region is generally considered ‘soft’ and poses no scaling problems.

There is no need to use water softeners in dishwashers or washing machines.

Making our water safe

We source our drinking water from the natural environment which is also home to a wide range or microscopic organisms (micro-organisms). While most micro-organisms are harmless, some can be unsafe for human consumption. We treat your drinking water to ensure no harmful organisms (pathogens) reach your tap.

Good plumbing practices for households

Metals such as lead, copper, nickel and iron used in the manufacture of plumbing fixtures can dissolve into drinking water, particularly where water has been sitting in contact with these plumbing products for long periods of time.

Due to the heating process, hot water systems can result in more dissolved metals in water compared with cold water systems.

Rainwater systems can also dissolve more metals from plumbing products as the slight acidity of rainwater can make rainwater corrosive to plumbing.

Householders can proactively reduce their potential exposure to metals in drinking water through the following measures:

  • using water from cold taps for drinking and cooking
  • flushing cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 30 seconds first thing in the morning to draw fresh water through the tap
  • flushing cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes after long periods of non-use, such as return from holidays (‘flushed’ water can be collected and used for washing up or water in the garden)
  • when renovating or building, choose low lead or lead free plumbing products certified to WaterMark and AS/NZS 4020:2005
  • always use a licenced plumber.


We add fluoride to our drinking water to prevent dental decay, as directed by the Victorian Government and endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The Geelong and Colac regions’ water supplies have been fluoridated since 2009 and 2010, respectively. Other supply areas are not currently connected to a fluoridated supply.

The addition of fluoride to our drinking water is carefully controlled and monitored, and doesn’t change its taste, smell or colour. Fluoride is added to an optimum dosage of 1 part per million (1 milligram per litre), as declared by the NHMRC.

For more information, please contact the Department of Health.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Barwon Water tests for PFAS in the region’s drinking water supply and has never detected PFAS above National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) limits at any of our drinking water treatment plants.

PFAS are per- and ployfluoroalkyl chemical substances, found widespread in the environment and commonly used in water resistant apparel, cleaning products and non-stick cookware.

After water is treated at our plants, it travels in a closed system to customers’ water meters meaning contamination with PFAS is highly unlikely to occur.

The ADWG provide health-based guideline values for three PFAS substances (see tables, below) designed to be protective over a lifetime.

Frequency of sampling is based on catchment risk assessment.

Protecting our catchments

Our drinking water is harvested from protected catchments. Maintaining the health of these catchments is crucial in ensuring we’re providing our community with high-quality, safe drinking water.