North South pipeline

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Approximate route from the Goulburn River near Yea to Sugarloaf Reservoir

The North South pipeline was announced by the Victorian Labor Government in 2007 to take water from the Goulburn River on the North side of Great Dividing Range and pump it to Melbourne in an effort to secure Melbourne's water future.

The pipeline is part of the Victorian Governments Foodbowl Modernization Plan, which involves upgrading some of the leaky irrigation infrastructure. The government claims that this will save 225 billion litres of water and use this as justification for taking what they call Melbourne's "75 billion litre share" of the water.

The pipeline has been opposed from a group called Plug the Pipe, who, with support from the Victorian Farmers Federation, claim that there simply isn't enough water to take. The Plug the Pipe group has significant support from farmers and other rural and remote Victorian people and businesses, as they believe that their whole livelihoods will be taken away because of the lack of water, which is essential to farming and food production.

Criticism of the project include:

  • It is inappropriate to take water from the depleted Goulburn River (and hence the Murray Darling Basin).
  • There will be significant environmental impacts, because of the risk to several rare species, wetlands, native forest and 57 highland water ways that are in the proposed path
  • Over 160,000 tonnes per year greenhouse emissions will result from pumping water over the Great Dividing Range.

The Goulburn River supplies "Victoria's Foodbowl", which provides a large proportion of Australia's food, both for domestic consumption and export. The Goulburn water system is already in crisis due to water scarcity.

On the 20th October 2006 the Victorian Premier released a report "The Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy" in which the government claimed it wasn't viable to take water from the Goulburn Valley to Melbourne. The CSIRO have since released several reports stating the same and commenting on the detrimental effect it would have on both the environment and the agricultural production which contributes so much to Victoria's economy.

The Victorian Auditor General has released a report concerning the government's lack of accountability in regard to the project and its unwillingness to conduct the appropriate environmental and fiscal studies to justify the projects claimed benefits to the communities.

70% of Victoria's 79 municipal councils have also voted in favour of the project being halted until proper investigations are conducted.


Quick facts

  • It is planned to pump 75 billion litres (GL) of water to Melbourne per year
  • The pipeline will be 70km in length
  • The cost is estimated at $750 million
  • The pipeline diameter is 1.7m
  • IT is planned to be completed in 2010
  • The proposed route is close to the Melba Highway
  • 18 megawatts of power will be required to pump 300,000 tonnes of water over the Great Dividing Range each day. This is 28% of the power generated by Guthega hydro-power station in the Snowy Mountains.[1]
  • The Coorong Lakes near the Murray River mouth in South Australia desperately need 60GL a year water to survive.
  • Some of the water derived from the pipeline will end up being flushed by the Gunnamatta ocean outfall rather than recycled.

Paying the cost

It has been reported that water bills for Melbourne households will almost double over the next five years. Water price plans released by the Essential Services Commission show metropolitan water providers will charge between 87 per cent and 96 per cent more for water. Water Minister Tim Holding, has stated that Melbourne residents need to help pay for major water infrastructure projects, such as the North South (Sugarloaf) pipeline and the Wonthaggi desalination plant.[2]

Unfortunately, the community will be forced to pay for these projects, whether they want them or not, without any consultation or serious consideration of alternatives such as domestic water tanks.

The politics of water

It appears that the Brumby Government is prepared to write of constituents in rural areas such as Yea and the Goulburn river catchment in an attempt to find more water for Melbourne. However, the water the pipeline will actually deliver is questionable.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has given the project a green light and endorsed it.

However, the Australian Senate may block (or amend) the pipeline proposal. The Coalition and Greens have vowed to amend a federal water bill to block the project, with concerns that the project is in violation of the intent of the entire national water plan as it will take water away from stressed farmers and from stressed rivers.[3]



  1. Outcome of Eildon-Sugarloaf north-south pipeline will be anything but sweet, Kenneth Davidson, The Age
  2. Water bills set to rise, ABC News, November 7, 2008
  3. The Senate's bombshell plan to block Melbourne water pipeline, The Australian, November 14, 2008

See also

External links

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