Last week I presented to the Vision Partners Forum at City Hall. This Forum included key stakeholders in the region who represent organisations supporting the planning and implementation of the community’s 30 year Clever and Creative Vision. On the same day, the Committee for Geelong hosted Infrastructure Victoria for a discussion about the development of its 30-year plan.
In both gatherings, there was a discussion about the long term future of Geelong – who we are and what we need. Geelong has a great opportunity to design a city-region that maintains our wonderful environment and specifically highlights our unique north-facing bay, surf beaches and rivers. The discussion then turned to the impacts we face with a changing climate.
Barwon Water recently launched its new Water For Our Future program at the G21 Forum. This program is pioneering an approach to water planning that will see our water authority partner with regional leaders and the wider community to develop a vision and ideas for how water will be sourced and managed into the future.
The three-year program encourages the community to join in tackling the challenge of a hotter and drier climate, which is resulting in less rainfall and inflows into local catchments and reservoirs.
Barwon Water Managing Director Tracey Slatter has indicated that with less rain expected and a growing population, now is the time to join with the community to look at options to ensure we have all the water we need for a prosperous future.
Since 1997, the average yearly water collected at West Barwon Reservoir has decreased by about 32 per cent (or 9000 million litres), and that January this year was the driest January on record.
While the region has a number of backup water sources to call upon when it gets dry in the short to medium term, our projected population growth will create challenges for water supply. The Water For Our Future program gives us the chance to have a calm, considered regional discussion about the value of water and how our water resources can continue to support liveable communities and healthy environments into the future.
Barwon Water has also set their sights higher still. As a major greenhouse gas emitter, they have committed to achieving zero emissions by 2030. As a Clever and Creative City-region, there has been a strong focus recently on how we can focus on a circular economy where waste is eliminated where possible and resources are continually used. Barwon Water has a number of innovative projects underway including working with business to convert waste into renewable energy. These will reduce waste and emissions and ultimately support regional prosperity and job growth.
Innovations such as these show a critical switch in thinking that we need for our region. As part of this thinking, the Committee for Geelong is working on a submission to the Victorian Government’s Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management with members including Barwon Water and Corio Waste Management. We have an opportunity to consider addressing our current waste management crisis through the lens of recycling, the circular economy and renewable energy. We need a comprehensive, long term and sustainable response that we all own as a community. And that is truly a vital part of designing our best future, for generations to come.
I encourage everyone to have a look at the Water For Our Future website where you can learn about our climate situation and plans for water for our region, as well as share your ideas for what you want our water future to look like. The site can be found at barwonwater.vic.gov.au/future