THE state and federal governments are being urged to upgrade old water recycling infrastructure in a move to “drought proof the Mornington Peninsula”.
The plan by Mornington Peninsula Shire envisages reusing class-A recycled water from the Eastern Treatment Plant to provide water security for a range of agricultural activities, including wineries, beef production, and agriculture-based tourism.
The mayor Cr Bryan Payne said the growth of Melbourne’s population meant existing sewerage pipes could no longer cope with demand. He said they should be replaced with larger capacity pipes with the water pumped to the top of Arthur’s Seat so that it can be distributed to all properties and farms in the Green Wedge.
“It’s all ready to go. A South Eastern Water reserve is already at Mt Martha so we see this idea as a no-brainer.”
“This is a project of state significance which requires a commitment of funding as part of food security, employment, tourism, fire prevention and climate change policies,” Cr Payne said.
The Eastern Treatment Plant, built in 1975 near Carrum Downs, treats about 40 per cent of Melbourne’s sewage from about 1.5 million people, mainly in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs.
Following treatment, some water is recycled, while the rest is piped 56 kilometres to Boags Rocks, near Gunnamatta, for discharge into Bass Strait.
“The development of recycled water infrastructure for food security and maintaining sporting and environmental assets has been clearly demonstrated by droughts, water restrictions in the past and even by the lack of rain over the last three months,” Cr Payne said.
“The growth of Melbourne’s population will see sustainable agriculture … play an increasing role in preserving the rural character of the Green Wedge, the development of agri-tourism and a selection of high quality wine and food products just an hour from Melbourne.”
He said the peninsula’s agriculture industry employed 1289 people. “With access to recycled water this can grow creating additional local employment opportunities.”
The total value of agriculture on the peninsula, including $280 million in value added processing, was estimated at $1 billion in 2014.
The peninsula is in the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Region, the second largest agricultural region in Victoria, and produces about 15 per cent of the total wealth generated from the state’s agricultural industry, from less than four per cent of the state’s farm land.
About 70 per cent of the land is rural in the Green Wedge, with 30 per cent taken up by towns and villages.