Arron Wood

Sustainable Business and Education Leader

Could Melbourne Run Out Of Water?

It has been a bit long since my last blog.  My work life has become unexpectedly busier in taking on the role of Acting Lord Mayor of Melbourne for an extended period. I have managed to get down a few words though off the back of one the driest February months for many years.  A measly 1.6mm of rain for the entire month in Melbourne! Melbourne's water storages have dipped below 65%.

As we move through glorious months of summer lapping up sun and beach, it’s difficult not to feel just a bit nostalgic about the good old days. Do you remember when your parents would turn the sprinkler on and you ran back and forth in the garden for hours? Or those famous water fights with all your friends in the neighbourhood that inevitably ended with the cool kid marching up to the hose and spraying everyone at full blast? Water just flowed endlessly from the tap and like summer, it seemed like there was no end.

It doesn’t matter whether you grew up spending summers on the coast; we just love our water. With our weather patterns getting increasingly unpredictable there are more instances of extreme storms during summer that make it easy to forget Victoria is not overflowing with full water reserves across the state. However, this is no time to be complacent about water.

Melbourne’s water supply is secure for the next 15 years at most before we will likely begin to experience chronic water shortages. This is even if the desalination plant is cranked up to its full capacity. Climate change and increased demand due to population growth are the main influences for this, with our projected population expected to reach eight million by 2031.

Although it seems too early or alarmist to start thinking about this now (there’s still a decade before this is a problem, right?), we should not forget that the millennium drought ended only eight years ago. Melbourne’s water storages were depleted to 25 per cent. That was when the Target 155 campaign kicked in and we were conscientiously keeping buckets in the shower to save for the garden and installing water saving shower heads. Those days are long behind most of us, along with the four minute timer that we used to stick in the shower.

It is apparent we are starting to forget how critical those years were as average residential water consumption begins to rise to 200 litres per person and beyond. 

I am a strong believer that Melbourne has the capacity to grow, and we should; this is the world’s most liveable city with so many opportunities. What we need to focus on is being smarter with our resources to keep our consumption in check. If Victoria can avoid the more serious impacts of climate change and water consumption does not rise significantly, our supply can be secure for at least another 50 years. That’s a big difference!

I’m not saying we need to start skipping showers and giving up the garden, however it’s important not to get complacent. A couple of stormy days doesn’t mean that much for our water storages. Remember to be mindful about your water use, and even though you’d love to relive those glory days of playing with water with reckless abandon, maybe it’s time to create new (and sustainable!) memories with the family.

This is my first public service announcement for the year. There was a bit of a hiatus there, but I hope you’ve enjoyed my almost monthly updates previously. Until the next entry I hope you all enjoy a happy, safe and fun 2018!

For information on Target155 or Target Your Water Use please https://www.water.vic.gov.au/liveable-cities-and-towns/target-155-target-your-water-use