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Wastewater means waste mainly consisting of water, and includes any of the following:

  • sewage or another human-derived wastewater
  • wash down water or cooling water
  • irrigation run-off or contaminated stormwater
  • contaminated groundwater
  • water containing any commercial, industrial or trade waste.

About wastewater laws

There is a general environmental duty to minimise risks to the environment and human health. This means managing wastewater infrastructure, including legacy systems, to minimise risks of harm to human health and the environment from pollution and waste. You must take all reasonably practicable steps to maintain systems to minimise potential harm.

You have a responsibility to make sure your waste goes to the right place. You must comply with the industrial waste duties, when managing industrial waste, and the Environment Protection Regulations 2021. Check here to see whether your activity requires a permission from EPA.

About the waste management hierarchy

The waste management hierarchy is a tool that shows different ways to manage waste from most to least preferred.

The hierarchy is central to Victoria using its resources sustainably.  Waste should be managed in accordance with the following order as far as is reasonably practicable:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Reuse
  3. Recycling
  4. Recovery of energy
  5. Containment
  6. Disposal

As the hierarchy shows, the best way to manage wastewater is to avoid producing it. Reusing or recycling wastewater are the next preferred options, however this may involve treatment.

Disposal is the least preferred option.

Onsite wastewater treatment systems

A permit from council is required to construct, install or alter an on-site wastewater management system with a design or actual flow rate of sewage not more than 5000L on any day.

Systems that can treat more than 5000L per day need an EPA development licence and operating licence (unless an exemption applies).

More information about the regulatory framework and approval process for on-site wastewater management systems is available..

How to manage sewerage system discharges, leaks and spills

It’s important to design and manage sewerage systems to minimise the risks to human health and the environment. However, leaks and overflows can happen. These can pose serious risks to human health and the environment. Our guidance for how to manage them includes:

If a notifiable incident occurs, you must report this to EPA.

Managing wastewater

The wastewater industry plays an important role in reducing impacts on Victoria’s water environments. The publications below aim to help you better protect the environment as part of your operations: 

Wastewater reuse and EPA’s role

Through our program for reusing wastewater, we:

  • provide advice to industry on good environmental practices
  • control commercial and industrial wastewater discharges through our permissioning system
  • control how industry can reuse wastewater. 

Read more about wastewater

How to prevent water pollution from your business

How to use and recycle wastewater

About wastewater

Alternative water supplies and their use

Water recycling guidance

How to manage dairy farm effluent

Stormwater guidance for industry

Reviewed 9 November 2021