At times of critical need, the 70-kilometre North–South Pipeline can carry water from the Goulburn River to Melbourne’s Sugarloaf Reservoir.
It is not currently operating but remains part of our insurance against severe drought.
How the pipeline works
The North–South Pipeline can transfer a portion Lake Eildon’s water that is set aside for Melbourne, called the critical water reserve. This was 38,400 megalitres at 2 June 2014, and any changes are based on Goulburn-Murray Water’s advice.
If the pipeline is operating:
- Lake Eildon releases the allocated water into the Goulburn River
- Water is pumped into the pipeline and sent across the Great Dividing Range to Melbourne
- At Sugarloaf Reservoir, it mixes with water from the Maroondah and Yarra catchments
- All this water is treated at Winneke Water Treatment Plant to strict water quality guidelines
- Water is then fed to smaller service reservoirs supplying central, northern and western Melbourne
When water can be used
The Victorian Government has ruled that the Lake Eildon water allocation can only be used in times of critical human need: when Melbourne’s total water storages are less than 30% full on 30 November of any year.
This water is also available for local firefighting, and the North–South Pipeline has six Country Fire Authority offtakes for this purpose. This means the pipe must remain filled with water, even if it is not being pumped through the pipe.
The pipeline was connected to Melbourne in February 2010. Its $750 million budget included two important upgrades to boost Sugarloaf Reservoir’s supply capacity and reach, giving us more flexibility to manage the water supply system.