Under the Environment Protection Act 2017, all Victorians have a General Environmental Duty (GED), to minimise harm to the environment and human health, so far as reasonably practicable.
Download the factsheet (PDF) or keep reading for advice on how to manage residual floodwaters.
Before pumping floodwaters
Always assess the risk to human health and the environment when deciding how you will manage your residual floodwater.
Residual floodwater is a type of waste. In Victoria, everyone has a duty (GED) to ensure their waste goes to the right place, to avoid the risk of environmental damage.
Step 1: assess the risk of contamination
The environmental risks of pumping floodwaters vary. The level of risk depends on the nature and extent of any water contamination, and where the residual water will be deposited.
Some common disposal methods include leaving the residual water to evaporate naturally, depositing it into a waterway, or pumping it over a grassed area. If you are unsure of the best floodwater disposal method, please contact EPA on 1300 372 842.
While water clarity can be an indicator of water quality, it is not a reliable way to assess the contamination risk. Many chemicals and pathogens are invisible to the eye.
Do not pump residual water onto public lands if:
- the water looks contaminated or has an odour
- the water is likely to contain runoff from urban or intensive agriculture environments
- the water is likely to contain dairy pond effluent, or runoff from stock feedlots or holding yards
These types of floodwaters may present a higher risk of harm. Call the EPA for specific advice on 1300 372 842 (24 hours).
Other factors to help you assess the level of risk
- While water clarity can be an indicator of water quality, it is not a reliable method because many chemicals and pathogens are invisible to the eye.
- The longer floodwaters remain, the poorer the water quality is likely to be. This is because, as floodwaters evaporate, the remaining water will have a higher concentration of contaminants.
- Before pumping into a waterway, first consider the users downstream. Are people boating, swimming or fishing in the water? Will livestock be drinking the water? If so, consider alternative disposal methods such as pumping the floodwater to grassed areas.
- The risk of pumping residual floodwaters into waterways is lower when the receiving waters has a higher flow of water (compared to the volume you are pumping).
- Floodwaters that have come into contact with intensive agriculture pose a higher risk of harm to human health and the environment, and should not be pumped onto public land or waterways.
Floodwaters that are likely to contain dead livestock, dairy pond effluent, or runoff from feedlots or holding yards pose a higher risk of harm. Seek specific advice from EPA on managing these floodwaters.
Step 2: seek permission
If you have determined that the risk of contamination is low, the next step is to plan where to move your water.
- If you want to pump the water into a waterway or onto public land you need the approval of the waterway or land manager. They may need to test the water first. If you are unsure who manages the area, get in touch with your local council.
- If you plan to move your residual water onto (or across) private land, contact the landholder for their approval.
Step 3: monitor the pumping process
- When pumping begins, conduct a visual check of the water in the receiving environment. If there is a visible plume, reduce the pumping rate.
- Assume all floodwaters are contaminated. Do not inhale any spray/mist during the pumping process.
- If you notice any changes to the receiving environment, stop pumping and contact the EPA immediately
If you notice fish deaths, or any changes to the receiving land or water (such as discolouration), stop pumping immediately and contact EPA for advice on 1300 372 84. Our contact centre is open 24 hours.
Reviewed 9 December 2022