Archive:  Our Water, Our Future (Sustainable Water)

Last Updated 17/2/07



California Has BALLS:  It's Pretty Simple - No Water, No Development!!!

(9/6/08 - E)  Ooohh, would that we did... How soon can Arnie make it to Victoria?

Living here in Victoria (or even Australia), it's difficult to imagine, isn't it, that someone, somewhere, is sufficiently visionary to connect the dots between increasing population/development and increasing water demand/water shortages and come up with "unsustainable". 


According to the New York Times, California already had a 2001 law that requires a 20 year water supply as a condition for building, but it hadn't been invoked until the water supply started drying up.  Things came to a head this week in California where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an official state-wide drought - so it isn't "business as usual" anymore.  Not only are water suppliers now saying no, so too is local government, and residents are using the 2001 water requirement to object to on-going development.


Click to go to the New York Times article.


MRRA Says:

Perhaps the outstanding observation in the New York Times article is that "lack of sufficient water sources could become a serious threat to economic development in California..."   Wouldn't that be the case elsewhere?  Like Victoria?  Not to mention the "inconvenience" not having water causes to people and plants and animals and farmers!  Don't we need to take another look at the rapidly increasing number of people in Victoria and the as-rapidly dwindling amount of water we have?  Hhmm?   Or is that asking just a little too much...



A Small (Teensy) Part Of Lake Eppalock's Water Catchment Gets Some "New" Special Protection

(21/12/06 - P)  So much promised, so little delivered.  And without changes to the Victorian planning system so that damaging land use can be prohibited, is really there any point?

North Central Catchment Management Authority [NCCMA] last week made a splash when it announced it is preparing a Special Area Plan for Lake Eppalock proclaimed drinking water catchment, to protect the catchment from inappropriate development and improve land management practices.  The Special Area Plan was anticipated because it was flagged as an action to be taken last year in the Bendigo Regional (Water) Action Plan.  But where's the rest of it?   Click here to see NCCMA's press release.


MRRA Says:


The State government's Our Water Our Future Bendigo Regional Action Plan, released in September 2005, at page 11 says: "The Campaspe catchment extends from the Great Dividing Range in the south to the River Murray in the north, and covers a total area of approximately 4,000 square kilometres... The quality of water and reliability of supply in Lake  Eppalock is affected by upstream and surrounding land uses... By June 2007, the North Central CMA, in conjunction with the Lake Eppalock Consultative Committee, will develop a Special Area Plan to better manage the Lake Eppalock catchment."


From that statement, a person could be forgiven for thinking the whole Eppalock catchment is ear-marked for inclusion in the Special Area Plan, and that some genuine attempt is being made to protect regional drinking water catchments, but no. 


All of the northern part of Macedon Ranges Shire is within the catchment for Lake Eppalock, from Benloch in the east, to Mt. Macedon and Woodend in the south, and Tylden and Spring Hill in the west.  None of these places are included in the latest proposal for catchment protection.  Macedon Ranges misses out again.  So does Lake Eppalock.


The Special Area Plan announced this week will only be applied to the Lake Eppalock catchment inside the boundaries of the City of Greater Bendigo municipality.  A large part that area has had the equivalent of a Special Area Plan (i.e. Land Use Determinations) applied since 1966, so you can perhaps see what we mean by 'teensy', and understand why we are scratching our heads trying to work out what all the fuss is about.


Most 'land use determinations' were made in the 1960s and 1970s. Individual properties were assessed by the then Soil Conservation Authority (now DSE) for land capability and sensitivity, problems such as erosion and land management, and proximity to reservoirs and storages, and a professional decision (determination) was made about how the land could be used without damaging the water catchment and compromising the drinking water harvested from it.  These determinations were made under an act of parliament, and still have legal standing under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.


Land use determinations similar to those currently around Lake Eppalock are also already applied across several parts of Macedon Ranges, such as Mt. Macedon, Macedon, Bullengarook, Cherokee and Hesket.  The intention of these controls was to restrict land uses to those which are compatible with harvesting healthy drinking water from land within a 'proclaimed' drinking water catchment.  Where determinations applied, former planning schemes usually contained specially structured zones and provisions that recognized and enforced land use determinations. Macedon Ranges' former planning scheme was no exception.


The problem that all areas with these determinations face is that the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPPs) and new planning schemes simply aren't capable of upholding land use determinations (and therefore protecting drinking water catchments), because the VPP zones don't consider water catchment values, and can't be changed to deliver what the determinations say should happen - and should not happen.  In short, unless the State government changes the Victorian planning system, any new Special Area Plans (determinations) still won't be able to be delivered by VPP planning schemes.


MRRA has been calling for these changes to the planning system for a number of years now, and to date our calls have fallen on deaf ears at Spring Street.   We even told former Planning Minister Hulls that the VPPs were 'breaking the law' by ignoring land use determinations...  Nothing we said got through and all we got was the mantra that Macedon Ranges (including its water catchments) are already protected. 


In contrast to its neglect of water supply for rural areas, the government is leaving nothing undone to shore up the Thomson dam catchment.   No-one could dispute the need to protect Melbourne's precious water catchments from the devastating fires now threatening them, but we'd like to know why Melbourne's water catchments are so much more important, get so much more attention and protection, than our regional water catchments that provide water for places that aren't Melbourne.


Mmm...  When you think about it, working out why regional Victoria is running out of water (has run out?) isn't hard.  There's a drought, and at the same time, the State government hasn't really done anything to protect regional water catchments, and all the while it just keeps mindlessly shoving in more people. 


And now this project, which held so much hope for action at last, is shaping up to be another example of the government just not 'getting it', and not caring about people in rural areas.  The State government's much-promoted document, Our Water Our Future, through the Bendigo Regional Action Plan, says let's have a Special Area Plan for Lake Eppalock catchment.  What we are getting is a Special Area Plan for just a tiddly little part of that catchment.  


Not good enough, in our book, especially with Macedon Ranges Council apparently hell-bent on putting a house on every rural lot.  No-one's doing anything to stop that, even though it's the last thing that should be happening in our water catchments.



Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy (Final) Has Just Been Released

(31/10/06 - E)  The Strategy includes parts of Macedon Ranges Shire, and you can find it on the Department of Sustainability and Environment website.

If you would like to know how the State government and water authorities propose to address water crises in our area (i.e. the southern portion of Macedon Ranges Shire including Gisborne, Riddells Creek, Romsey, Macedon and Lancefield), you can now go to the DSE website and look at or download the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy.  Macedon Ranges seems to be included in the "Inner West" section.  Go to the DSE site ( and then go to What's New.



UPDATE  Draft Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy Out For Comment Until 23 June

(9/5/06 - E)  Proposed strategy for how water will be managed in the southern parts of Macedon Ranges - have your say!

We all know how critical water is, and many of us are concerned with how water, and our drinking water catchments, are being managed.  Here's a chance for you to find out more about what's planned for the future.  Click here for more information about this important issue.

(14/5/06 - E)  Is "Melbourne's Water" Set To Become "Half Of Victoria's Water" Under This Strategy?  Macedon Ranges, Werribee, Wallan, Wonthaggi and next, Woodend?  How far can Melbourne's water be taken before everyone runs out?

For a Government with a 'no new dams' policy, there doesn't seem to be any stopping the Bracks government from sending Melbourne's water supplies far and wide.  Since Christmas, towns along the Hume, in Macedon Ranges, around Werribee and Melton, and in South Gippsland have been or are earmarked to be hooked up to Melbourne's water supplies.  Click here to see press releases for external areas.  Woodend, Lancefield and Romsey in Macedon Ranges look next in line.  All except Werribee are in 'fringe' or 'orbital' areas: i.e. rural Shires that circle Melbourne.  Coincidentally, all are in seats currently held by the State government. 


Melbourne's storages have been hovering at around or above 50% (55% this time last year) for quite a while but in recent weeks, despite autumn rain and reduced consumption, have now fallen even further (see latest MW Storage Report). 


Most of the new 'rural' connections have been identified as proposals in the draft Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy. 

Click here to see State government's press release on the Strategy.


MRRA Says:

Solution or band-aid?  It seems water shortages in rural areas under development pressure are increasingly being "fixed" by connection to Melbourne's water supplies.  Where does it stop - Swan Hill?


Local communities might be relieved that at last some water is coming in, but how long will Melbourne's water supplies last if (a) Melbourne continues to grow (as predicted), (b) water intended to support Melbourne keeps being shipped out into rural areas and (c) those rural areas grow -  not least because they're connected to Melbourne's Water?  


Around Bendigo, it looks like the answer is going to be shipping water in from somewhere else - the Goulburn system.  That seems to be the main plan - move water around like electricity on the power grid (never mind the potential for shipping one area's water quality and contamination problems to another!).  Forgive us for thinking this sounds a tad like 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'.   Circular wetness.


At the same time, the State government isn't doing much to protect OPEN potable water catchments, where the land is in private rather than public ownership - the catchments that produce most of the drinking water outside the metropolitan area.  At the moment (and for the past 10 years), there isn't and hasn't been a hard and fast way of limiting development on private land within open catchments, and no-one seems prepared to step up to the plate and deal with it. 


Every new development, including houses, adds a little something to the contamination and silt cocktail going into drinking water storages, and at the same time soaks up water (in tanks and dams, diversions) that would otherwise go to the public storages.  Ditto groundwater.  All the while the government is driving more and more growth, more development into areas served by storages 'filled' from these catchments. 


Is it just us, or is there something happening here that simply doesn't make sense?



Draft Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy Out For Comment Until 23 June

(9/5/06 - E)  Proposed strategy for how water will be managed in the southern parts of Macedon Ranges - have your say!

We all know how critical water is, and many of us are concerned with how water, and our drinking water catchments, are being managed.  Here's a chance for you to find out more about what's planned for the future.  Click here for more information about this important issue.



Submissions On Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy Discussion Paper Close 20 December

(9/12/05 E) Our Water, Our Future: Your chance to have input at an early stage

Public submissions on the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy Discussion Paper are invited and close on Tuesday 20th December, 2005.  To see the Discussion Paper Fact Sheet go to then go to Land Management, then Water.  You can also find the Discussion Paper at this location.   Submissions should be sent to:

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Attention: Ms Jillian Crawford

PO Box 500

East Melbourne 3002


This is a very important issue so if you need more information or want a copy of the Discussion Paper, contact the Department of Sustainability and Environment:  Customer Service phone number  136 186 or visit the DSE website on



UPDATE:  Submissions can now also be sent via email  up to 20th December and by post until 23rd December .  If your submission is likely to miss the 20th December deadline by post, contact DSE to alert them of same.