Water Journal : Water Journal August 2011
my point of view water AUGUST 2011 11 Overcoming the Principal Barrier: Complexity Most Australian states have adopted legislation, policies, guidelines and codes that provide a framework for the management of land use and development risks to water quality.1 The Australian state parliaments have been prolific in the development of legislative frameworks that impact catchment management. Victoria is a case in point, where there are eight separate Acts2 that need to be utilised. The complex legislative framework can be a significant barrier to effective catchment management, as officers of water corporations and even government agencies can overlook critical provisions that need to be taken into account. There are also many different best-practice guidelines to be taken into account3, but few of them provide specialist advice regarding the management of potable water catchments. However, the approach in Victoria has been unsupportive of water corporations seeking to implement generic guidelines as part of their catchment management programs. The concern is that while generic guidelines promote good farming practices, they do not establish the measures and practices that are necessary specifically within Special Water Supply Catchments to minimise risk to water quality.4 More is required. What is needed, in my opinion, is a management approach targeting specific potable water catchments. The result is that water corporations seeking to benefit from catchment management must understand the legislative instruments in their jurisdiction and prepare catchment management plans that link land management practice with the management of drinking water quality risks. This necessarily involves an investment in the internal capability of the organisation and establishing relationships with government agencies, local government, industry associations and landholders. The statutory regime in which water corporations operate can throw up administrative barriers beyond the scope of their management. For example, there is a lack of clear policy guidance in Victoria on how planning authorities should weigh up competing objectives such as protecting water quality and protecting economic output from agricultural productivity. This has the potential to drive inconsistent decision-making and have the overall effect of weakening the ability of water corporations to effectively manage water catchments. The result is that in order to be able to manage catchments, water corporations may need to advocate the formation of policy working groups with representation from planning authorities, water authorities, local government and farmers to review policy options and determine the best approach to the future controls over the Special Water Supply Catchments. Such an approach has recently been advocated in Victoria5, but we are yet to see the results. Conclusion Catchment management is not only an obligation, but an opportunity for innovation, for intelligent water corporations over the coming decades that has the potential to carve millions of dollars of capital upgrades for water treatment, as has already been realised at Melbourne Water. In order to harness the long-term benefits, water corporations must invest in the internal capability of the organisation and establish relationships with government agencies, local government, industry associations and landholders. My view is that further work to ensure clear catchment management policy at state and national levels may be required, which may drive water corporations into the advocacy space. 1 http://www.awa.asn.au/Catchment_Stakeholders_Interactions_ Map_.aspx 2 Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 (Vic); Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic); Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (Vic); Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic); Water Act 1989 (Vic); Local Government Act 1993 (Vic); Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 (Vic). 3 For example, Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2004, National Health and Medical Research Council; Protect our Waters, Protect our Health: A guide for landholders on managing land in drinking water catchments 2010, Department of Health (Vic); Planning Permit Applications in Open, Potable Water Supply Catchment Areas 2009, Department of Planning and Community Development (Vic); Guidelines for Environmental Management: Code of Practice -- Onsite Wastewater Management (Septic Tank Code of Practice), Environment Protection Authority (EPA, Vic); Land Capability Assessment for Onsite Domestic Wastewater Management (EPA, Vic); Guidelines for Aerated On-site Wastewater Treatment Systems (EPA, Vic); Code of Practice for Small Wastewater Treatment Plants (EPA, Vic); Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007, Department of Sustainability and Environment; Sustainable Carrying Capacity Monitoring Tools 2005, Department of Primary Industries (DPI, Vic); Property Snapshot 9 'Soil Testing for Paddocks', (DPI, Vic); Chemical Use in Victoria -- What I Can and Can't Do (DPI, Vic); Management of Dairy Effluent 2008, Dairy Gains Victorian Guidelines; Current Recommended Practice, A Directory for Broadacre Dryland Agriculture s 5 & 15 2004, Murray Darling Commission. 4 Cathie McRobert, Darrel Brewin & Robin Saunders: Baw Baw Planning Scheme Amendment 2009, p 76. 5 Cathie McRobert, Darrel Brewin & Robin Saunders: Baw Baw Planning Scheme Amendment 2009, p 7. Winneke Water Treatment Plant treats about 20% of Melbourne's water supply.
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