What is climate adaptation?

The data is clear – our climate is changing, and this is already impacting South East Water and the communities we serve. As our climate changes, the place we live in also changes, and we have to understand how in order to adjust as well as possible. A changing climate is a high-priority issue for our board because it presents challenges and uncertainties for our forward planning.

Extreme events (e.g. floods and bushfires), as well as changes to climatic averages (e.g. lower average rainfall), are already affecting our local operations, threatening our ability to solve problems before they impact our customers, community and employees. As an essential service provider, we must prepare for increased demand and extreme events to ensure people have access to water now and into the future.

We have to respond to the way our climate has already changed. But no matter how quickly we reduce future greenhouse gas emissions, Victoria has already become warmer and drier. When it does rain, it is projected to fall in more intense bursts that put stress on our infrastructure.

In Melbourne’s south-east, these trends are expected to continue, along with harsher fire weather, rising sea levels, and more very hot days (usually defined as a day with maximum temperature exceeding 35°C).

Understanding climate adaptation

We're adapting to climate change to respond proactively in an uncertain environment. We have a responsibility and a role to play in:

  • Using up-to-date evidence on climate change to understand our changing reality
  • Preparing for these challenges by considering climate change in our decisions
  • Understanding how our systems are vulnerable
  • Assembling a list of the many risks that might impact service delivery
  • Looking at each risk and how we might face it without changing the way we do business
  • Doing something that the community would expect

What are the challenges we’re facing?

After examining our climate risks, we found that there are four major ways that climate change could impact your water and sewer services by 2030:

  • Bushfires - bushfires are getting more likely, and a bushfire in the wrong place could disrupt services for weeks or months and could cost millions of dollars.
  • Extreme rainfall and flooding - rising sea levels and more intense storms could push more salt water into our network and cause more frequent sewer spills.
  • Drought - longer and more severe droughts could not only use up our water stores more quickly, but drying soils can also break pipes causing water leaks and sewer spills.
  • Gradual rainfall and temperature changes - these will combine to increase demand for water (especially for gardens, sports fields and cooling) while reducing the water we have available.

Climate change risk assessment

What is South East Water doing?

Digital twinning

Digital twinning is about using precise and advanced technology to understand how changes to the system will affect the network. For South East Water, it lets us understand how the impacts of a changing climate will affect our services.

Improved tracking

Climate change can cause great uncertainty. Improving our tracking systems now lets us understand future changes better and before they happen.

Better communication

The community, our staff and our industry partners all want to know what is happening. We look at many tools to improve telling others what we know and what we have learned.

Climate-related Financial Disclosures 

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is an international organisation that recognises the climate creates financial challenges for businesses such as South East Water. They aim to provide information and understanding so we can make informed decisions about our business and deliver services in a responsible way.