Climate change and population growth are putting pressure on Victoria’s rivers and groundwater. It’s time for Victorians to consider using water from all sources, including recycled water.

Water in Victoria comes from many different sources and can be used for different purposes. Below is a list of different water sources and their allowed uses in Victoria. Every type of use has water quality standards. For example, drinking water is treated to remove dirt, contaminants and pathogens.

You can view this table in a word version here.

Victoria’s water supplies largely come from rain. With climate change, Victoria will become warmer and drier in the future, and our rainwater supplies will become less reliable. More desalination is one option near the coast, but there are other water sources we can use such as recycled water and stormwater. These can be made safe to drink with appropriate treatment and oversight.

There are many benefits of using all water sources. For example, recycled and desalinated water do not depend on rainfall, recycled water can be cheaper to produce than desalinated seawater and diverting untreated stormwater from waterways improves the health of waterways.

Currently, the Victorian Government does not allow the use of recycled water and treated stormwater for drinking. This has limited research into and testing of these sources. They may be cost-effective solutions for increasing and securing drinking water supplies if government policy allows them to be considered.

What are our draft recommendations?

We have included the following recommendation in our draft strategy:

Draft recommendation 11. Consider all water supply sources (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Consider all water sources for supply augmentation, including identifying and addressing barriers to recycled drinking water within the next 10 years. When planning for future water supply, investigate all options including, but not limited to, recycled water, seawater desalination, stormwater harvesting and using water pipelines to move water between regions.

The Victorian Government should:

  • Remove the current policy ban on recycled drinking water
  • Review restrictions on moving water between regions, which could delay investment in more expensive supply options
  • Improve regulatory frameworks to manage health risks with monitoring, oversight and adherence to Australian guidelines and standards
  • Enhance capacity and capability for regulators
  • Explore barriers and unknowns, including further research to achieve safe recycled drinking water
  • Build further community understanding of water.

How are others doing this?

Other places successfully use recycled water for drinking. You can find examples from Western Australia, New South Wales and Singapore in the Frequently Asked Questions below.

Other relevant recommendations in the draft strategy

Read Section 1.2 of the draft strategy (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF) to read other recommendations related to ‘responding to a changing climate’

What are your thoughts about using recycled water for drinking?

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Moderation Policy

12 May, 2021

Malcolm says:

“Issue is community trust in institutions (not technology) to manage health risk. Plan has to show institutional open reliable performance.”

13 April, 2021

Emily says:

“Why are we not doing this already??”

12 April, 2021

Danielle says:

“This has been safely in use for decades - over 35 cities do it. It's proven, safe, sustainable. Let's start engaging our communities on it.”

23 March, 2021

Duncan Wallis says:

“Indirect potable reuse via large existing raw water service basins & dams is a great option for some towns. Direct potable more yuk but OK. ”

23 March, 2021

Matt Shanhaan says:

“Do it! One less obvious advantage is that we can then use existing waterways for a range of recycled water uses, which makes it affordable”

22 March, 2021

Victor G says:

“Should be on the agenda for Melbourne. We need an active policy. We have the technology and I'm sure would be cheaper than desalination.”

19 March, 2021

Gary Allen says:

“Using recycled stormwater is great idea to replenish water supply and use of recycled wastewater to augment groundwater recharge excellent”

19 March, 2021

Rowan Barling says:

“This must include decentralised options such as Aquarevo where treated rainwater is being used for showers but not yet drinking.”

19 March, 2021

Rowan Barling says:

“It is important that we have all options on the table and can start a meaningful conversation with the community which may take 10+ years.”

18 March, 2021

wayne slater says:

“The planet isnt making any more water. We are all drink the water our ancestors drank. We already have the technology. Lets use it. ”

17 March, 2021

Nin says:

“Water is water. It is all recycled anyway. Recycled water for drinking makes sense in our changing climate. We cannot rely on rainfall alone”

17 March, 2021

Kate says:

“Great idea - it's good to approach these issues scientifically rather than emotionally. ”