State Environment Protection Policy (Waters)
Victoria’s water environments are diverse and valuable. The primary regulatory mechanism for protecting these waters from pollution is the Environment Protection Act 1970 (the Act). The Act defines high level objectives for the protection of the environment and identifies the roles and powers of EPA in respect to environment protection.
State environment protection policies (SEPPs) are subordinate instruments to the Act and are an important component of the regulatory framework in Victoria. SEPPs outline the uses and values of the environment that the community want to protect (these are called beneficial uses) and define the quality of the environment required to protect these. SEPPs also identify the rules for decision makers and obligations on industry in order to protect our water environments.
The State Environment Protection Policy (Waters), also referred to as SEPP (Waters), provides a framework for the protection and management of water quality in Victoria, covering surface waters, estuarine and marine waters and groundwaters across the State.
SEPP (Waters) commenced on 19 October 2018. It replaces the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria), its regional Schedules, and the State Environment Protection Policy (Groundwaters of Victoria) and was made following an extensive review and consultation process.
Transition to the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters)
SEPP (Waters) formally commenced on 19 October 2018. EPA expects all duty holders to recognise the requirements and expectations set out in the SEPP (Waters).
However, EPA recognises that some matters will have been significantly progressed with reference to the previous SEPP (Waters of Victoria) or SEPP (Groundwaters of Victoria) at the time SEPP (Waters) was gazetted.
With this in mind, until 19 January 2019, EPA will, in certain circumstances, allow the following matters to be completed with reference to SEPP (Waters of Victoria) and SEPP (Groundwaters of Victoria), rather than SEPP (Waters).
Environmental audits conducted or being conducted under Part IXD of the Act for auditor review and the auditor is of the opinion that reliance on previous policies would not pose an unacceptable risk; or
Environmental site assessment or hydrogeological assessment where no auditor is involved and reliance on previous policies is based on appropriate justification in the final report.
These matters must have been substantially progressed as at 19 October 2018. The auditor or assessor must also discuss their approach with EPA prior to completing their audit or assessment.