Planet: doing more good, rather than less bad
We rely on the environment to provide excellent quality drinking water. We recognise we have a role in protecting this precious resource. We also have an impact on the health of the environment through the delivery of our services.
Climate change is a serious threat to the economy, long term water availability and the community we serve. Australia’s water resources will be heavily affected by drought and extreme weather in the decades to come. Developing ways to protect and maximise these constrained resources is therefore essential.
Our work has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, discharges to waterways and the availability of water for the environment.
Our priority is to ensure that our water and wastewater services are resilient to climate change, drought and population growth.
Working towards carbon neutrality
The water industry generates a quarter of the Victorian Government’s overall emissions. Waste treatment is responsible for 55 per cent of Yarra Valley Water’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Work is underway across the sector to reduce this footprint. We are reviewing how we maintain carbon neutrality in a sustainable, impactful and cost-efficient way. We are committed to doing more to reduce our carbon footprint before we offset by:
- increasing energy efficiency to directly reduce emissions, by minimising the amount of energy we use
- increasing the use of renewable energy to reduce indirect grid emissions
- using carbon abatement to offset any remaining emissions.
Energy efficiency provides the best return on investment, so we are currently upgrading treatment processes to significantly reduce electricity consumption.
Generating our own electricity
We have set ourselves a target of producing 100 per cent of our own energy needs by 2025 – generating as much energy as we consume. Our waste-to-energy facility, ReWaste, currently produces around 25 per cent of our energy needs, and we are exploring the business cases for other options.
ReWaste provides a disposal solution for commercial organic waste, diverting it from landfill and turning it into power. It sits next to an existing sewage treatment plant in Wollert and generates enough biogas to run both sites with surplus energy being exported to the electricity grid.
The site has the capacity to process up to 33,000 tons of organic waste each year, or approximately 100 tons per day, offering an affordable alternative to organic waste disposal, and reducing our energy costs. This allows us to keep pressure off household bills.
We are currently planning a second, larger waste-to-energy plant. This could take our renewable energy production up to 70 per cent of total use by 2021.
Other renewable energy solutions we are examining include solar and mini hydros.
We are about to commence the tendering process for a solar carpark at our head office. We also expect to build solar farms at our treatment plants in Healesville, Upper Yarra and Whittlesea as early as June 2018.
We are also collaborating with industry and developers to assess the viability of building large-scale renewable energy generation that makes use of single-access tracking technology (moving panels).
Protecting and promoting healthy waterways
We impact waterways by taking water from the environment and when nutrients and other pollutants are discharged to waterways, from our treatment plants and sewers during storm events. Our aim is to have no net impact on our waterways.
We work to provide modern sanitation services to properties with polluting septic tanks. More than 13,000 homes in Melbourne use septic tank systems, because sewerage infrastructure was not available when they were built. These systems do not meet current environmental standards and present a risk to public health and local waterways. Our ongoing Community Sewerage Program provides solutions for these homes.
Conserving water from the environment
We manage our activities to ensure that environmental flows are never compromised and that nature receives adequate water to sustain healthy ecosystems. This includes having a robust strategy for managing our water supply-demand balance, engaging with the community on responsible water use, planning for future growth and maximising the integrity of our assets.
Collaborating on Integrated Water Management forums
We participate in Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Integrated Water Management (IWM) forums in the Yarra, Dandenong and Maribyrnong catchments. These bring key agencies – including planners and local councils – together to examine opportunities for shared value projects with liveability benefits.