VICTORIAN Water Minister Peter Walsh this week announced a proposed pilot program that aims to encourage residents of part of Mt Evelyn, in Melbourne's outer east, to use more of their stormwater runoff at home.
"This two year pilot, developed by Yarra Ranges Council and Melbourne Water, aims to dramatically reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and pollution entering the Little Stringybark Creek," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said Yarra Ranges Shire Council has proposed the introduction of an Environmental Significance Overlay to new developments in the Little Stringybark Creek catchment that create additional hard surfaces, such as roofs or paving, that are greater than 10 square metres.
The Minister said that planning approval of such developments would be conditional on the proponents finding options to capture and treat more of their stormwater runoff onsite, including for uses such as toilet flushing, garden watering and other non-drinking purposes around the home.
"It is a practical example of how Integrated Water Cycle Management can be tailored to suit the needs of local communities, and it is the type of project that fits neatly with the Victorian Coalition Government's Living Victoria objectives," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said the government will closely monitor the success of the pilot program and investigate if there is potential for similar programs to be applied to other catchments across Melbourne.
Member for Evelyn, Christine Fyffe, said that since the drought, there are strong community expectations that better use be made of all available water sources, including stormwater, rainwater and recycled water.
"Not only will households in our community be reducing their demand for drinking water and saving money on future water bills, they will also be helping to improve the health of one of our local waterways," Mrs Fyffe said.
Yarra Ranges Councillor, Maria McCarthy, said the pilot program was a win for the Little Stringybark Creek, adding that stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution and cause of erosion in the creek.
"As more development occurs, the volume of stormwater flowing into the creek increases, which damages the creek and causes erosion. Stormwater also carries litter and pollution into the creek affecting water quality," Ms McCarthy said.
Throughout the trial, all stormwater capture and treatment systems will be awarded a stormwater retention score, calculated by Melbourne Water and based on the ability to treat and capture stormwater on site. Proposed developments will be required to meet a minimum score to proceed.
According to the government, treatment options such as rain gardens or rainwater tanks that go beyond the minimum requirements may be eligible for partial or full reimbursement by Melbourne Water and households may also be eligible for rebates through the Living Victoria Water Rebate Program.
Amendment C122 to the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme is currently on public exhibition until 11 March. More information is available by searching for 'Amendment C122' on the Yarra Ranges Shire Council website at <http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/>.