Our water supply challenges

Population growth and climate change have accelerated since we experienced the Millennium Drought in the early 2000s, creating a new normal for our water supply. Let's take a closer look at these challenges, which are real and ongoing.

Our population has grown...

Kids playing drums at Waterwatch Family Festival

Melbourne’s population has grown a lot in the past twenty years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Victorian State Government, Melbourne is the fastest growing city in Australia.

We’ve added 1.4 million new residents since 2001 – and we know that over the next 50 years the population of Melbourne and the surrounding region is expected to grow from 4.6 million to almost 8 million. 

Over the same timeframe, Victoria's total population is anticipated to reach over 10 million.

.. meaning water use is rising

Personal water saving actions, more efficient home appliances, and better urban design and planning have lowered use per capita. However, more people means more demand on our water supply and, consequently, our water storage levels.

Our recent growth has seen annual water use rise by 10.7% over the last five years.

We have longer drier periods

Alongside our growing city, our climate is now characterised by longer drier periods, greater temperature extremes and more intense storm events. All these factors dry out the land, affect rainfall patterns and reduce how much water makes it into our storages from rainfall.

Bushfires increase pressure on water supplies

Firefighter standing in a forest ravaged by bushfires

Hotter, drier conditions also increase the risk of bushfires, placing further pressure on our drinking water supplies.

The majority of our water supply reservoirs are in protected catchments, meaning they are surrounded by natural bushland. That keeps the water cleaner and means less treatment is required to meet our strict health standards, but that bushland is also susceptible to bushfire which can impact water quality and supply and take reservoirs offline in the short term.

In a hotter and drier climate, the risks of bushfire increase, making efficiencies in our entire water supply system even more critical.

All that means our water supply picture looks different today than it has in the past, and will continue to evolve.

What are we doing about it?

Melbourne Water sign saying 'Recycled Water in Use'

The water sector works closely together with the State Government to plan for and manage these changes.

Melbourne Water and the water retailers will continue to:

  • recycle and reuse more wastewater for things like agriculture and firefighting
  • capture and reuse more stormwater for watering our parks and sporting fields 
  • support the design of a more water-efficient city.

Desalinated water will continue to be a key part of our water supply, and of course all Melburnians have their role to play, continuing to be water wise in our everyday lives.


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Learn about our permanent water-saving rules, if you're meeting Target 155 and Melbourne's history of water restrictions.


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Tips for saving water at home

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Last updated:
3 September 2019