Melbourne’s “Target 155” program aims to reduce water use to 155 litres per person per day, says visiting Australian task force leader



Melbourne's 'Target 155' Program

The University of Victoria's POLIS Project on Ecological Governance hosted an afternoon discussion with Cameron FitzGerald, senior project leader with Melbourne Water on  Monday, September 13th. FitzGerald is responsible for developing a 50-year strategy for sustainable water management in Melbourne, Australia. 


Striving for Sustainable Water Management

“With Melbourne acting largely “in response” to crisis caused by 13 years of drought, FitzGerald is looking globally for new ideas to build the long-term thinking required for truly sustainable water management,” reports Susanne Porter-Bopp, POLIS Community Water Coordinator.

Susanne porter-bopp (140p) - polis project“FitzGerald managed Melbournes' acclaimed 'Target 155' water conservation campaign, which has succeeded in reducing per-capita water consumption to below 155 litres per person per day — however Melbourne's water situation remains precarious.”

“Our dams were last full in 1998,” says FitzGerald, “now we just had our driest January to June period ever.” Melbourne recently constructed a coal-fired desalination plant, an expensive and carbon-intensive approach of increasing water supply to meet demand.

“Cameron Eric bonham (120p) FitzGerald reminded us once again of the importance of engaging the public at the grassroots level,” says CAVI's Eric Bohnam, who also attended the session, “while we still have a way to go in terms of developing and adopting a long- term water ethic, this sharing session proved to be a constructive step towards that goal.”


Response to Historically Low Water Supplies

Much of the South East Coast of Australia has experienced sustained periods of extremely low rainfall over the past 10 to 15 years. Melbourne, which is home to over 4 million people, has been severely impacted, with water storages at historically low levels. In response, Australian water authorities have invested in two ways:

  • Implementation of innovative water conservation programs that work in conjunction with water restrictions to reduce demand on shrinking water supplies.  This culminated in the implementation of the “Target 155” program which called on all Melburnians to reduce their water use to less than 155 litres/person/day.  He was responsible for developing and leading  implementation of this program.
  • Committed to large scale system augmentations – including the construction of a large desalination plant. All of these decisions were made in “crisis mode” and reflect that the strategic planning performed by Melbourne's water authorities was not robust enough to manage previously unforseen events. In addition, “crisis decision making” can sometimes result in inefficient and potentially unsustainable proposals being adopted that may ease immediate pressure but can have significant implications on the long term sustainability of the water supply system.

“Melbourne's four water authorities have appointed me to head a task force that develops a 50-year strategy that seeks to achieve a vision of 'Sustainable water management for a better Melbourne'.” states Cameron Fitzgerald.

“Clearly, this means we need to move away from crisis decision-making and move towards a more sustainable model of water management, one that understands the long-term opportunities available for water conservation as well as considering low environmental footprint supply options (for example, local urban stormwater harvesting with local reuse).”



The POLIS Project on Ecological Governance is a centre for transdisciplinary research that investigates and promotes sustainability. POLIS was established in 2000 by the Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy at the University of Victoria and fills a unique niche on campus as a place where academic and policy research meets community action.

The POLIS mission is to cultivate ecological governance through innovative research, policy analysis and strategic advocacy, law reform, education and community action. Ecological governance offers alternatives to linear, extractive, and unsustainable systems – alternatives that are circular, reflective and self-sustaining in ways that reduce urban demands on distant and local ecosystems.


Posted September 2010