Review of Victorian Water Laws
The Victorian Government is carrying out a comprehensive review of Victoria's water laws to deliver a streamlined and effective legislative framework for water management and use in Victoria.
About the review
Effectively, the new Water Bill Exposure Draft proposes to bring Water Act 1989 and the Water Industry Act 1994, which currently governs the management and use of water, into a single new streamlined Water Act.
The key proposals of the Water Bill Exposure Draft aims to:
- enable the delivery of the Victorian Government's Living Victoria policy and Melbourne's Water Future Strategy
- consolidate in one place the water management arrangements for a particular area, which will help improve understanding of these arrangements
- target processes for identifying and managing long-term risks to water resources so they are more efficient
- clarify and simplify processes for licences and water share
- clearly define the functions of water corporations and catchment management authorities
- enhance and modernise the compliance and enforcement regime with more alternatives to court action and new penalties that are in line with the nature of the offences.
Additional details and the review documents can be found at www.depi.vic.gov.au/water/governing-water-resources/water-law-review
How this affects the City of Greater Dandenong
Key changes in the Water Bill Exposure Draft that impact on Council include recognition of Council as a drainage authority and the right of Council to extract and re-distribute stormwater from its assets.
Greater Dandenong is a large consumer of potable water and is committed to reduce its own water consumption. Council also aims to promote the methods by which water can be conserved or safely re-used within its community.
The main implications for Councils are:
- Stormwater will be vested in the Crown and the Minister will have the power to declare a local stormwater area through a water resource management order (WRMO). In practice, this will extend the “take and use licence” regime to water contained in stormwater works.
- For water in stormwater works outside WRMO (i.e. in “undeclared area”), Council will be able to use stormwater, including for distribution and/or re-sale to a third party.
- Consent from Council will be required for a third party to 'take water from' our drain asset infrastructure. Offence (taking water without consent), will be strict liability offences but enforced by the relevant water corporations (eg Melbourne Water).
- Liability regime for Councils will also align with liability regime applicable to Water Corporations (ie statutory liability for negligent and intentional conduct, rather than strict liability).
Council identified a number of actions in its Towards a Water Smart City – Councils’ Sustainable Water Use Plan (2008). The revised Water Bill should therefore facilitate and promote the use of alternative water resources, such as rainwater, stormwater and Class A recycled water and assist Council achieving the actions identified as part of its Water Use Plan.