Stormwater harvesting and use

Stormwater is an excellent alternative to mains drinking water for many purposes. It is easy to capture, manage and store on-site. However, there are human health and environmental risks that need to be managed, as stormwater run-off from urban areas is often contaminated with litter, pathogens, oil and other chemicals.

If simple management protocols and good catchment management practices are followed, stormwater can be used safely for low-risk purposes such as irrigation. For higher-risk uses, where people are more likely to be in close contact with the water, more complex management controls are necessary.

Here is further information, references and direction for those interested in using stormwater.

This information does not apply to the use of stormwater as a private drinking water supply, and does not cover the use of roof-collected rainwater. For those wanting further information on rainwater use, please refer to:

Regulation in Victoria

The use and required quality of stormwater is not specifically regulated in Victoria. However, the right to harvest stormwater and the construction of stormwater schemes may be subject to regulation.

The Water Act 1989 identifies who has rights to the use of water in waterways. Contact the local water authority, catchment management authority or local council for further advice if you intend to harvest stormwater from drains or waterways outside your property.

The Environment Protection Act 1970 establishes state environment protection policies. The State environment protection policy (waters of Victoria) requires that artificial stormwater drains and wetlands are designed and managed so that they are not harmful to humans or animals, and minimise pollution to surface and ground water.

Some stormwater recycling schemes may require approval or a permit from the local council under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or Building Act 1993. Contact the local council for more information on this.

The Plumbing Regulations 1998 specify the minimum technical standards for on-site plumbing work. All plumbing work must comply with the National plumbing and drainage code (AS 3500) and should use a licensed plumber.

Although there are no specific laws that dictate what stormwater can be used for or what quality standards it must meet, those responsible for stormwater schemes have a duty of care to make sure their scheme will not place people or the environment at risk. Supporting guidance is provided for both single residential properties and multi-residential and commercial sites.

Single residential properties

Households wishing to use stormwater should consider the following:

  • stormwater should only be captured within your property’s boundary
  • your property should be clean (i.e. no loose soil or chemical spills)
  • stormwater should only be used for low-risk purposes such as garden watering and toilet flushing
  • stormwater should not be used for drinking or food preparation
  • a licensed plumber should install any plumbing for the stormwater system. This is especially important if stormwater is used in your house for toilet flushing, to ensure that stormwater cannot contaminate the drinking water supply.

Multi-residential, commercial, industrial and community sites

For sites involving two or more households, or commercial, industrial and community premises, refer to National Water Quality Management Strategy Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks (Phase 2) Stormwater Harvesting and Reuse (Commonwealth Department of Environment). These sites may include:

  • community open space such sports and recreation fields, parks and gardens
  • commercial sites such as shopping centres, office blocks and conference centres
  • residential complexes such as apartment blocks or clusters of residences
  • education centres such schools and higher education centres
  • industrial premises
  • construction and building sites.

The guidelines establish standards and best practice for protecting public health and the environment and managing risks associated with stormwater use. They should be the basis for developing and managing a stormwater use scheme, in conjunction with any applicable Victorian information.

Additional information

Although there are no specific regulations in Victoria, there are a number of guidelines and standards that may assist proponents of stormwater schemes.

Page last updated on 22 Sep 2015