As Ballarat's population continues to grow how will we source enough water to meet demand?
It is a question many cities around the world are facing as their population booms.
Victorian researchers are working to create new solutions that are energy efficient and beneficial to the environment, beyond the traditional source of catchments and storage reservoirs.
Buninyong resident and stormwater expert Professor Tim Fletcher discussed the possibilities of technologically controlled stormwater harvest systems at a Smart Living Ballarat talk for World Water Day on Saturday.
The University of Melbourne professor and member of the university's Waterway Ecosystem Research Group is part of the team behind a trial of a 'real time control' network that will connect and operate stormwater harvesting systems around Melbourne.
"Every time it rains, we get a whole lot of run-off from roads and roofs going into our creeks causing erosion and a whole lot of degradation to the ecosystem. When we have lots of rain we get flooding," he said.
"If we instead thought about harvesting that stormwater and treating it to a really high standard so it could be used, then we not only increase the amount of water supply available to the city, but we maintain our urban creeks in a much better condition and reduce the risk of flooding."
We are trying to transform the water network.Professor Tim Fletcher
More areas around the world are attempting stormwater harvesting, but the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group's solution has a defining technological element - 'real time control'.
Large-scale stormwater harvesting systems are difficult to retrofit in established cities. Instead, real time control is technology that can connect existing regular rain water tanks to the weather forecast.
"With real time control networks the tank is controlled by an actuator valve that is connected to the Bureau of Meteorology weather forecast," Professor Fletcher said.
"If it sees there is going to be 50mm of rain tomorrow and predicts that is going to put in 4000 litres of water to the tank but it only has 500 litres of space available for water, it would start releasing water now to avoid the risk of flooding."
Professor Fletcher said this technology could transform the water network.
"The work we are doing is to try to come up with a completely new water system which would significantly reduce flooding, would stop waterways being degraded, would improve our water supply, allow individual households to supply a bit more of their own water and even potentially sell water back into a grid in the same way we do for solar panels," he said.
Real time control stormwater harvesting will begin as a trial in Melbourne this year.
Professor Fletcher said he expected the technology to become readily available within five years.