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

25 February, 2021

Jack says:

“If technology allows us to guarantee clean and quality recycled water then we must invest in it to secure our climate resilient future.”

25 February, 2021

John says:

“Recycled water and stormwater should be one of our future drinking water sources. Need to explore options and engage now with community. ”

25 February, 2021

TS says:

“The public need more assurance on methods of treatment /extraction of endocrine disrupters eg hormone medications + other EDC leachates”

25 February, 2021

Terry says:

“Not a problem for me. Every town along the Murray does it now.”

25 February, 2021

Suzy says:

“As a dry continent, it is way past time. We only hurt ourselves, our communities and our economic future by delaying further.”

25 February, 2021

Ali says:

“It’s about time Australia caught up with the rest of the world to create resilient and sustainable cities”

25 February, 2021

Mark says:

“Appropriately sourced, treated and monitored recycled water must be one of the diversity of future sources for drinking water.”

24 February, 2021

Matt says:

“Population growth, climate change and reduced rainfall into our catchments leaves us, I believe, with little choice. ”

24 February, 2021

Penny Joseph says:

“It’s a great idea. Obviously the water needs to be treated and monitored to ensure that it meets drinking standards. ”

24 February, 2021

Jane says:

“I am fully supportive. It is well overdue and our government needs to step up, be brave and take us forward into a more sustainable future.”

24 February, 2021

Jill says:

“Recycled water has been safely used overseas for decades. It needs to be part of our future under climate change and a growing population. ”

24 February, 2021

Andy says:

“Recycling sewage for drinking may lead to a perverse outcome. If sewage can be drunk, then why have protected drinking water catchments?”