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South East Water is undertaking a feasibility study to investigate the potential for the hinterland region in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula to be connected to a permanent supply of high-quality alternative water. 

Melbourne Water’s Eastern Treatment Plant at Bangholme discharges around 350 million litres per day of high-quality recycled water along the entire length of the Mornington Peninsula via a large pipeline called the South Eastern Outfall, which discharges into Bass Strait at Boags Rocks, near Gunnamatta.

The scheme would allow hinterland landowners access to the high-quality alternate water source, which would greatly increase the resilience of the hinterland to climate change, boost food production and strengthen the region’s resilience to bushfires.

South East Water is co-funding the feasibility study with the Federal Government, Mornington Peninsula Shire and Hinterland Environmental Water Scheme Incorporated, a not-for-profit community group.

The project partners have begun working together to investigate the feasibility of the project and understand the long-term water needs of the hinterland community, with the study to be completed by mid-2021.

The study will explore the potential to:

  • Open up the region to increased agricultural production and new horticultural opportunities by providing a high-quality, drought-proof alternative water supply
  • Boost local food production, which will create local jobs
  • Increase the firefighting capability in the region
  • Provide a secure water supply for parks and reserves, ensuring the highest possible amenity all year round
  • Reduce reliance on surface water and groundwater for irrigation, allowing these water sources to replenish and improve waterway health
  • Reduce the amount of high-quality alternative water going out to sea

Mornington Peninsula Mayor, Sam Hearn, said the scheme was a “win-win for the local economy and the environment”.

“Our agricultural businesses produce around $1.1 billion worth of food a year. Access to a clean and reliable water supply would open up new opportunities,” Mr Hearn said.

“And the beauty of it is, it’s using water that would otherwise be flushed out to sea, while allowing our local creeks and aquifers to recharge.

“This is a critically important project, not just for the Peninsula, but for the future of Victoria.”

South East Water’s General Manager Liveable Water Solutions, Charlie Littlefair, said, “We believe that recycled water isn’t waste, in fact it is a resource. 

“We are always seeking to expand our recycled water network and find new ways to use alternative water sources to support future liveability and work across our communities.

“We know in recent years the Peninsula has suffered from changing weather patterns and reduced rainfall. 

“If this scheme proves feasible, we’ll be able to provide a high-quality alternative water supply to help insulate local farmers against some of the effects of climate change.” 

Hinterland Environmental Water Scheme spokesperson, Russell Joseph, said, “The economic sustainability and growth of the Peninsula’s hinterland is limited by water availability. 

“We currently have farmers and firefighters relying on groundwater, farm dams or carting water to a few water tanks. 

“This is a climate adaptive project that would make the hinterland less vulnerable to bushfire and secure the region’s economic future. 

“And it would further develop agricultural industries that are fully compatible with the Green Wedge policy.” 

South East Water said the local community and stakeholders will be engaged early in the process to both understand local water values, their interest in achieving more productive outcomes from their land and how this might best be achieved.

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