How will Ballarat's water needs be met as our city gets bigger and climate change gets worse?
In a new report from Central Highlands Water, it'll take big investments and incremental change to link up and create backups for our network, and behavioural change from residents and businesses, to hopefully avoid showering with buckets again.
The Urban Water Strategy, released every five years, provides a 50-year outlook to 2071.
It looks at the Ballarat, Daylesford, Maryborough and Pyrenees systems, and smaller towns in the east, examining current supplies, projected demand, and what CHW is doing to make sure it can keep up.
For Ballarat, a graph of projected demand, under accelerated growth conditions and a "high" climate change forecast, the "earliest date that action may be required" is 2041.
That may seem a long time away, but consider early work for a $4.45 million upgrade of the Ballarat North wastewater treatment plant began in 2018, and the project isn't expected to be complete until 2024, or the massive Ballarat Sewer Build, a once-in-a-century upgrade that won't be finished for another three to five years.
CHW is moving to digital water meters, which its says could make water usage 5 per cent more efficient, and will coordinate with councils to encourage more responsible water use.
The aim is to avoid a return to restrictions, the document states, and based on modelling, the "water available from our storages or bores (will) not be enough to meet the level of service ... meaning restrictions will need to be implemented more frequently than agreed".
"For the Ballarat, Maryborough and Daylesford systems, the agreed level of service is 95 per cent, meaning that water restrictions are not expected to occur more than once in every 20 years," it states.
"Our systems must also have the capacity to provide a base level of water supply in our storages so that Stage 3 and Stage 4 water restrictions are never triggered, even during the worst dry conditions."
It also notes increasing environmental flows and releases for Traditional Owners would also impact the 2041 date.
The challenge is in making sure there's enough water in our reservoirs at all times to meet this target - options mentioned include linking the Goldfields Superpipe, which has not been used to supply water since 2019, into the Lal Lal Reservoir and the Moorabool River system and building up water treatment capacity, or developing "groundwater supply" in Ballarat West.
CHW was contacted for comment - the full report is available online.
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