Melbourne Water

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Melbourne Water
Agency overview
Formed 1992
Jurisdiction Government of Victoria
Headquarters Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Agency executives
  • Michael Wandmaker, Managing Director
  • John Thwaites, Chairman of the Board

Melbourne Water is a government owned statutory authority that controls much of the water system in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia including the reservoirs, and the sewerage and drainage system that services the city.


Melbourne Water is wholly owned by the Victorian State Government. It manages Melbourne's water supply catchments, sewage, rivers and major drainage systems throughout the Port Phillip and Westernport region. Governance of Melbourne Water is by an independent Board of Directors in conjunction with the Minister for Water. Customers include the metropolitan retail water businesses (such as City West Water, South East Water and Yarra Valley Water.[1]), other water authorities, local councils and the land development industry.[2] Melbourne Water primarily operates under the Water Industry Act 1994 and the Water Act 1989.[3] Melbourne Water was formed by the merger of Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and a number of smaller urban water authorities in 1992. The Victorian Water Industry Association (VicWater) is the peak industry association for water companies in Victoria. In 1994, Melbourne Parks and Waterways was separated from Melbourne Water, which became part of Parks Victoria in 1996.


Melbourne received its first piped water, from the Yan Yean Reservoir, in 1857.[4][5] Water shortages in the late 1870s led to the construction of the Toorourrong scheme in 1882–1885,[6] and the Maroondah Aqueduct in 1886–1891. In 1888 a large part of the upper Yarra valley was reserved for water supply purposes.[7]

In 1891, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) was formed to manage Melbourne's water supply, and create a piped sewerage system. Its responsibility covered the Yan Yean Reservoir (supplemented by the Toorourrong Scheme), the first stage of the Maroondah Scheme, and six metropolitan service reservoirs.

MMBW continued to augment Melbourne's water supply with diversions from upland tributaries of the Yarra River. The Maroondah Scheme was extended with a pipeline diversion from Coranderrk Creek (1908). A diversion weir on the O'Shannassy River was completed in 1914 and replaced by the O'Shannassy Reservoir in 1928. Maroondah Reservoir was completed in 1927, replacing a diversion weir upstream of the site.

Silvan Reservoir was completed in 1932 to regulate the increased flows in the O'Shannassy Aqueduct from the Upper Yarra River and Coranderrk Creek diversions. Water flowed out of Silvan Reservoir through the Mount Evelyn Aqueduct; the aqueduct was later replaced by pipes but is still visible in places with the Mount Evelyn Aqueduct Walk alongside.

The diversion of water from the Upper Yarra River commenced in 1939 with a weir upstream of the present dam and an aqueduct and pipeline to the O'Shannassy Aqueduct.[4] The Upper Yarra Dam was completed in 1957, increasing Melbourne's total storage capacity to nearly 300,000 megalitres. While the Upper Yarra Project was being built, a 1.7-metre diameter pipeline from a basin near Starvation Creek to Silvan Reservoir was completed in 1953. A duplicate pipeline of the same diameter was completed in 1964.

In response to the severe drought of 1967–68:

  • the diversion of Starvation, McMahons, Armstrong and Cement Creeks commenced between 1968 and 1971.
  • Greenvale Reservoir, with a capacity of 27,000 megalitres was completed in 1971 to meet the growing need in the western suburbs, especially during summer.
  • construction of Cardinia Reservoir was started in 1969 with it being filled to its 287,000-megalitre capacity in 1977, bringing Melbourne's total storage capacity to 610,000 megalitres.

To improve transfer capacity between Upper Yarra and Silvan reservoirs, and to enable water harvested from the Thomson River to be transferred to Cardinia Reservoir, the 2.1-metre diameter Yarra Valley Conduit and Silvan-Cardinia main were built in 1975.

In 1969 work commenced on diverting part of the flow of the Thomson River in Gippsland into the Upper Yarra River catchment. The final stage of the Thomson project concluded in May 1983 with an extension of the Thomson-Yarra Tunnel and completion of the dam wall. Thomson Reservoir has a storage capacity of 1,068,000 megalitres.

The Sugarloaf Reservoir Project, including a major pumping station and water treatment plant, was completed in 1981, increasing Melbourne's total storage capacity by 95,000 megalitres. Sugarloaf uses water pumped from the Yarra River at Yering Gorge and water transferred from Maroondah Reservoir via the Maroondah aqueduct. Sugarloaf is important in meeting peak summer demand in the northern parts of Melbourne.

In 1991, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was merged with a number of smaller urban water authorities to form Melbourne Water.

In 2008, work commenced on the North South Pipeline from northern Victoria's Eildon and Goulburn Valley area to Melbourne. Another project being planned to avert a water shortage in Melbourne is a desalinisation plant to be built at Kilcunda, south-east of Melbourne.

Water restrictions[edit]

Melbourne Water has a system of restrictions to manage water supplies into the future. It reports on storage levels on Thursday each week[8] while an interactive graph compares actual use. Further reviews of restrictions will be needed to counter an ongoing drought, poor rainfall, record low storage levels and rising water use compared with past years. An overview of Australian water restrictions (including Melbourne Water) is found here.


The water supply system operated and managed by Melbourne Water comprises:

  • catchments covering more than 140,000 hectares.
  • ten major storage reservoirs with a capacity of 1,810,500 megalitres.
  • 64 service reservoirs that provide short-term storage.
  • about 1300 kilometres of distribution mains and aqueducts.
  • 18 water pumping stations, used to pump water from low-lying areas to higher areas.
  • five water filtration plants.
  • 49 water treatment (disinfection) plants.

Water storages[edit]

Melbourne Water manages the ten Melbourne reservoirs outlined in the table below. Total storage capacity is 1,810,500 megalitres.[9]

Melbourne reservoirs
Reservoir Capacity (ML) Year completed Location
Thomson 1,068,000 1983 37°50′34″S 146°23′56″E / 37.84278°S 146.39889°E / -37.84278; 146.39889 (Thomson Reservoir)
Sugarloaf 96,000 1981 37°40′30″S 145°18′18″E / 37.6749°S 145.3051°E / -37.6749; 145.3051 (Sugarloaf Reservoir)
Cardinia 287,000 1973 37°57′49″S 145°24′37″E / 37.9637°S 145.4102°E / -37.9637; 145.4102 (Cardinia Reservoir)
Greenvale 27,000 1971 37°37′53″S 144°54′17″E / 37.63139°S 144.90472°E / -37.63139; 144.90472 (Greenvale Reservoir)
Tarago 37,500 1969 38°1′S 145°56′E / 38.017°S 145.933°E / -38.017; 145.933 (Tarago Reservoir)
Upper Yarra 200,000 1957 37°41′S 145°55′E / 37.683°S 145.917°E / -37.683; 145.917 (Upper Yarra Reservoir)
Silvan 40,000 1932 37°50′S 145°25′E / 37.833°S 145.417°E / -37.833; 145.417 (Silvan Reservoir)
O'Shannassy 3,000 1928 37°40′30″S 145°48′20″E / 37.67500°S 145.80556°E / -37.67500; 145.80556 (O'Shannassy Reservoir)
Maroondah 22,000 1927 37°38′05″S 145°33′47″E / 37.63472°S 145.56306°E / -37.63472; 145.56306 (Maroondah Reservoir)
Yan Yean 30,000 1857 37°33′S 145°08′E / 37.550°S 145.133°E / -37.550; 145.133 (Yan Yean Reservoir)

Water supply catchments[edit]

Around 80% of Melbourne's water is sourced from uninhabited forests in the Yarra Ranges and Central Highlands. In excess of 1,570 square kilometres is reserved for water catchment. These forests primarily consist of Mountain Ash. Catchment areas have been closed to the public for over 100 years .[10][11][12]

Major catchments[12]
Catchment Area (ha) Inflow (%) Comment
Thomson 48700 35.3 mainly State Forest and a small section within Baw Baw National Park
Upper Yarra 33670 18.7 within the Yarra Ranges National Park
O'Shannassy 11870 11.4 within the Yarra Ranges National Park
Maroondah 16540 10.8 within the Yarra Ranges National Park
Sugarloaf 0 10.7 water is pumped from the Yarra River and fully treated
Yarra Tributaries 13480 3.8 Armstrong, Cement, McMahons and Starvation Creeks (State Forest)
Wallaby 9100 1.9 within the Kinglake National Park
Total 92.6

In addition to the reservoirs in the table above, water is harvested via a number of diversion weirs:

Point Coordinates
(links to map & photo sources)
Silver Creek Weir 37°21′22″S 145°12′35″E / 37.356171°S 145.209854°E / -37.356171; 145.209854 (Silver Creek Weir) To Toorourrong Reservoir
Wallaby Creek Weir 37°24′16″S 145°14′48″E / 37.404495°S 145.246650°E / -37.404495; 145.246650 (Wallaby Creek Weir) To Toorourrong Reservoir
Toorourrong Reservoir 37°28′32″S 145°09′08″E / 37.475430°S 145.152296°E / -37.475430; 145.152296 (Toorourrong Reservoir)
Donnelly Weir 37°37′41″S 145°32′10″E / 37.628°S 145.536°E / -37.628; 145.536 (Donnelly Weir) To Maroondah Aqueduct
Sawpit Creek Weir 37°38′02″S 145°32′31″E / 37.634°S 145.542°E / -37.634; 145.542 (Sawpit Creek Weir) To Maroondah Aqueduct
Grace Burn Creek Weir 37°39′18″S 145°34′26″E / 37.655°S 145.574°E / -37.655; 145.574 (Grace Burn Creek Weir) To Maroondah Reservoir
Badger Creek Weir 37°41′10″S 145°34′55″E / 37.686°S 145.582°E / -37.686; 145.582 (Badger Creek Weir) To Silvan Reservoir
Armstrong Creek Weir[13] 37°38′13″S 145°51′36″E / 37.637°S 145.860°E / -37.637; 145.860 (Armstrong Creek Weir[13]) To Silvan Reservoir
Armstrong Creek East Branch Weir[13] 37°38′17″S 145°51′50″E / 37.638°S 145.864°E / -37.638; 145.864 (Armstrong Creek East Branch Weir[13]) To Silvan Reservoir
Cement Creek Weir[13] 37°43′S 145°45′E / 37.71°S 145.75°E / -37.71; 145.75 (Cement Creek Weir[13]) To Silvan Reservoir
McMahons Creek Weir[13] 37°43′S 145°53′E / 37.72°S 145.88°E / -37.72; 145.88 (McMahons Creek Weir[13]) To Silvan Reservoir
Starvation Creek Weir[13] 37°46′S 145°51′E / 37.76°S 145.85°E / -37.76; 145.85 (Starvation Creek Weir[13]) To Silvan Reservoir

Clearfell logging is permitted in the Yarra Tributaries and Thomson catchment areas. Some studies claims this reduces Melbourne's water supply arguing that young regrowth forest uses more water than existing forest[13][14][15] Some environmental groups claim that up to 30 thousand megalitres of water could be saved per annum by phasing out logging. This represents 6% of Melbourne's annual usage.[16]

Seawater Desalination Plant[edit]

The Seawater Desalination Plant is a $(AUS)3.1 billion desalination plant that was built in the Wonthaggi region of the Bass Coast.[17] The plant can provide an additional 150 gigalitres of water each year.[18][19] Construction commenced in mid-2009.[20] This project represents the single biggest boost to Melbourne's water system since the approval of the Thomson Dam in 1975. While this project will supply water for Melbourne, it is being managed by the Department of Sustainability & Environment (DSE) as a Public-private partnership (PPP). DSE awarded the tender for design, build and operation to another company who will in turn supply the water to Melbourne Water.

Northern Sewerage Project[edit]

Northern Sewerage Project is a major infrastructure project to increase the capacity of the sewerage system in Melbourne's growing northern suburbs. It will also help protect the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creeks by virtually eliminating sewage overflows that can occur after heavy rain.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX


  1. ^ Melbourne Water : About Us : Our Customers : Our Customers
  2. ^
  3. ^ Melbourne Water : About Us : Who We Are : Who We Are
  4. ^ a b Ritchie, E. G. (October 1934), "Melbourne's Water Supply Undertaking" (PDF), Journal of Institution of Engineers Australia, 6: 379–382, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-05
  5. ^ Gibbs, George Arthur (1915), Water supply systems of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works / compiled from official documents by George A. Gibbs, Melbourne: D. W. Paterson
  6. ^ "Melbourne Water Supply", The Argus, p. 5, 1888-01-17, retrieved 2011-04-23
  7. ^ "Melbourne Water Supply - Important Additions to the Watershed Areas", The Argus, p. 11, 1888-05-31, retrieved 2011-07-21
  8. ^
  9. ^ Melbourne Water : Water : Water Storages : Water Storages
  10. ^ "Water Catchments". Melbourne Water. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  11. ^ Department of Primary Industries. "Water Supply Catchment Protection". Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  12. ^ a b Dudley, Nigel; Stolton, Sue; Asante-Owusu, Rachel (2003), Running pure: the importance of forest protected areas to drinking water (PDF), World Bank/WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use, pp. 74&ndash, 77, ISBN 978-2-88085-262-7, retrieved 2011-11-22
  13. ^ a b c d e f Feikema, Paul; Lane, Patrick; Peel, Murray; Sherwin, Chris; Freebairn, Andrew; Salkin, Owen (October 2006), Hydrological studies into the impact of timber harvesting on water yield in state forests supplying water to Melbourne – Part 1 of Hydrological studies, eWater Cooperative Research Centre |access-date= requires |url= (help) Part 1a Archived 2011-03-27 at the Wayback Machine. Part 1b Archived 2011-03-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Logging rainforest within the Melbourne's domestic water supply catchments, Victorian Rainforest Network
  15. ^ National water week demonstrations expose logging in Melbourne's water supply, The Wilderness Society
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-20. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
  17. ^ Rood, David (2008-02-04). "In the eye of the storm". The Age. Melbourne.
  18. ^ Melbourne Water : Current Projects : Water Supply : Seawater Desalination Plant : Seawater Desalination Plant
  19. ^ Microsoft Word - 132863.doc
  20. ^ Our Water, Our Future - Desalination Plant Archived 2007-11-08 at the Wayback Machine.