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Water sensitive design is at the heart of Australia's largest urban renewal project

At Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend development, engineers and urban planners have a unique opportunity to build a water sensitive city from the ground up.

By 2050, the 480-hectare site on the south side of the Yarra River will be home to 80,000 people and support the same number of jobs. It will be made up of five precincts across the City of Melbourne and the City of Port Phillip, combing residential, business, education and green spaces in an area more than twice the size of the Melbourne’s CBD.

What makes Fishermans Bend notable is the vision to create Australia’s largest urban renewal Green Star community. This means promoting sustainability, protecting the environment, and taking an innovative approach to development. In a framework, approved and released in October last year, the Fishermans Bend Taskforce outlined the planning controls and eight sustainability goals that will help achieve this, including goal five: A water sensitive community.

“The way that Fishermans Bend is planned and developed will have a significant influence on the future liveability of the city,” the Framework stated.

“It is an opportunity to ensure Melbourne remains a great place to live and work by setting new benchmarks for inner city urban renewal and attracting the talent and investment needed to create and sustain economic prosperity.”

The Framework sets out some ambitious targets for Fishermans Bend to achieve by 2050, including: reducing potable water demand to less than 100L per person per day; reducing net sewage discharge by 50%; reducing the impact of storm and flood events; and reducing nutrient discharges from stormwater and treated effluent to Port Phillip Bay.

Central to this is the proposed construction of a precinct-scale water recycling plant, run by South East Water, that will supply Class A recycled water to the community via a third pipe.

Fishermans Bend Taskforce Infrastructure Manager Andrew Chapman said this cutting-edge plant will provide recycled water at a cheaper cost than smaller building-scale systems.

“Not only will it be an active plant supplying the community with water, but also a hub for research where we can explore the possibilities for dealing with urban waste,” Chapman said.

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, together with partners the City of Port Phillip, City of Melbourne and South East Water is also investigating the possibility of building a sustainability hub at Fishermans bend, which could be co-located with the water recycling plant. This would explore how energy, water and waste processes can be streamlined to improve recovery rates and increase community satisfaction, which Chapman said is important in such a dense community.

“Managing water and solid waste is a huge challenge in an urban intensive area with 300 or 400 houses per hectare,” he said.

“A traditional greenfield development has about 20 to 25 houses per hectare. We’re looking at twenty-fold that; how do you manage all the waste?”

Stormwater harvesting will also help reduce potable water demand, with water detention and retention basins placed in buildings and the urban environment. Chapman said this will supply about 10% of the precinct’s water demand.

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