28 Feb 2018

Incentivising Stormwater Management for Cities and Suburbs

Kym Whiteoak

The world’s populations are flocking to cities. In Australia, more than 90% of the population now live in cities and this is growing at a rate of 1.6% per year (ABS 2008). This growth has significant implications for the urban landscape. One of the greatest challenges for managing the changing urban landscape is dealing with water, particularly the excess stormwater runoff from increasingly impervious areas, transferred directly to streams through the expanding drainage network. Conventional stormwater management can lead to increases in stormwater volume of up to ten times, which leads to myriad impacts including flooding of houses, roads and infrastructure, degradation of stream channels and ecosystems, decreased replenishment of aquifers, and greater pollution of streams and bays. In Australia, the mechanisms currently employed to combat these impacts are failing to engender change. How can better stormwater management be incentivised to reduce these impacts?

Currently, the stormwater charge in Melbourne is charged irrespective of how much stormwater is generated by the property (as a fixed fee for residential, and based on property value for non-residential). The Victorian Government has, in its recent Water Plan, recognised that to complement existing provisions and regulations, stormwater management needs to be “improved by finding the best mix of legislative regulatory, financial and market-based incentives” (VicGov 2016). One possible solution could be to provide a financial incentive and simultaneously increase public awareness of the impacts of imperviousness, following the adage “if you can measure it, you can manage it”. Whilst true for drinking water, where smart meters are increasingly introduced to manage demand, could the same principles apply to stormwater runoff?

To read the full article, visit Australian Water Association Water E-Journal here.