Melbourne Water looking back at 2023

Melbourne Water manages every aspect of the water cycle in greater Melbourne. Managing Director, Dr. Nerina Di Lorenzo looked back at 2023 and into 2024.

Melbourne Water manages every aspect of the water cycle in greater Melbourne. Managing Director, Dr. Nerina Di Lorenzo looked back at 2023 and into 2024.

Dr. Nerina Di Lorenzo has been at Melbourne Water for four years. Coming from a background in the oil and gas sector, followed by local government, Di Lorenzo came to Melbourne Water, finding a strong values alignment with the industry and a significant opportunity to plan in a much broader way.

“I have been in the MD (Managing Director) role for nearly two years now,” she said. “I have focussed very strongly during this time on the coming decade, recognising that what we do in the next ten years will set us up for future generations.”

Di Lorenzo is noted for her proactive approach that clearly evaluates issues and identifies opportunities for innovation within the sector. Melbourne Water represents an organisation built for adaptation, providing a more orderly pathway that delivers better community value and security overall.

“We are at a similar time as our forebears 130 years ago,” Di Lorenzo said. “They set up our infrastructure, and Melbourne Water is at an inflection point that will support us for the next 130 years.”

Reviewing 2023

As we head towards the end of 2023, water resource management and resilience have been key priorities for Melbourne Water. It is actively working with its partners across the sector and investing in research to understand the best approaches for a strong and sustainable future for our water supply. This can only be achieved if it works towards the objectives set out in the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy and its collaborative sector strategy, Water for Life.

“In 2023, Melbourne Water has continued to deliver its essential services while also delivering on our key goals, which will prepare us for the future,” said Di Lorenzo. “2023 has been a challenging year following last year’s flooding across the state. Through our dedicated people’s commitment and tireless efforts, we have supported the various agencies working with the community through the recovery process.”

Many opportunities have arisen from the Maribyrnong Flood Review, run by an Independent Panel. Melbourne Water is already well-progressed in implementing the 15-recommendations.

“We have fast-tracked catchment modelling to include the impacts of climate change,” she said. “We have worked together with local communities to build flood awareness and resilience. Melbourne Water has also worked closely with our partner agencies in the Bureau of Meteorology and VICSES (Victoria State Emergency Service) on streamlining forecasting processes.”

Partnerships are essential

Melbourne Water has several meaningful partnerships and collaborations which intertwine to support a sustainable future.

“Melbourne Water is committed to building a sustainable future for all generations,” Di Lorenzo said. “This year, we reaffirmed our commitment to do our part to address climate change and its impacts on our water supply, sewerage, and drainage systems. This commitment includes continuing our global net zero partnership with Danish water utility Aarhus Vand and UK water leader Severn Trent. Collectively, we are working to reduce carbon emissions by one million tonnes annually. It forms part of our ongoing sector transition to net zero for the Victorian water sector by 2035.”

It is also engaging and partnering with Traditional Owners. These partnerships have been incredibly valuable. They strengthen our connection to the land and enable traditional ecological knowledge to be incorporated into water management practices.

In recognition of the importance of collaboration and Indigenous community involvement in water management, Melbourne Water formed its first partnership agreements with Gunaikurnai (GLaWC) and Waddawurrung Traditional Owners. In Melbourne, these agreements represent a significant step towards reconciliation and sustainable water management.

The plans for 2024

Di Lorenzo has a range of priorities for the year ahead. Her primary focus will be safeguarding Melbourne’s water supply to meet the demands of the growing city and the future impacts of climate change.

“We are in the decade that matters,” she said. “While there is much work to do, Melbourne Water is facing this challenge head-on so that we will have the resources we need for generations to come. We also aim to provide a better quality of life for our communities and the environment. Melbourne Water will do this through robust environmental management practices and undertaking targeted restoration projects.”

Melbourne Water reached a significant milestone in its major capital project, the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) Bundle. The contract for this project was officially signed in August 2023. The Bundle at the Western Treatment Plant is a ground-breaking innovation to help Melbourne Water propel towards a decarbonised future. Mobilisation will be underway from December 2023 to March 2024, with the project team already on site to commence preparatory work.

Melbourne Water is also remaining steadfastly committed to sustainability. Di Lorenzo believes that it inspires its work on renewable energy projects.

“We will continue to explore ways to harness clean energy sources,” she said. “One example is the solar farm we use at Winneke water treatment plant. Melbourne Water is currently building a second solar farm at Carrum Downs.”

It is also expanding its hydroelectricity generation. Three new mini-hydro power stations at St Albans, O’Shannassy Reservoir and Upper Yarra Reservoir will be completed over the next 12 months. A total of 7100 megawatt hours of electricity will be produced each year by these additional mini-hydropower plants.

“We are ambitious in our goals, and we need to be. This decade matters to ensure Melbourne remains a great place to live for generations to come.”

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