Melbourne Water environmental stewardship lead Erik Ligtermoet

29 January 2014 — Melbourne Water is focusing on managing climate change risk through the rollout of an Environmental Stewardship Strategy.

The strategy has identified approximately 230 business risks Melbourne Water faces as a result of climate change. These include reduced catchment yields due to higher temperatures and lower rainfalls; increased bushfire risks leading to water quantity and quality problems; and increased potential for corrosion, odour and overflows in the sewerage network.

“In order to adapt we need to understand the effects an uncertain climate may have on our systems – flooding, drainage, sewage and waterways – and to develop contingency plans to deal with extreme weather conditions,” says Melbourne Water environmental stewardship lead Erik Ligtermoet.

The strategy is also focused on Melbourne Water’s own contribution to carbon emissions, in recognition of the fact they are one of the largest energy users in Australia.

“It takes a lot of energy to deliver water and remove sewage, and sewage treatment [also] creates greenhouse gases,” Ligtermoet says.

“Much of our renewable energy comes from by-products of our operations. Eight hydro plants generate electricity from water moving around the system and methane from sewage treatment is used to generate biogas to power our plants.”

The organisation has set a voluntary greenhouse emissions target of zero net emissions by 2018, and there are clear signs of progress towards the goal, with a 47 per cent reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions in 2012-13 compared with 2000-01.

Applications are currently being assessed for a new environmental stewardship coordinator, whose role will include managing a range of projects that support implementation of the stewardship strategy.

Some of these projects include exploring the supply chain for opportunities to increase product sustainability, and encouraging partners and suppliers to implement sustainable business practices.

Melbourne Water has also formed close partnerships with the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and various universities as part of an ongoing commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship research.