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Award-winning drinking water starts in the catchment

Nestled into the foothills of the Yarra Valley ranges, Healesville is now officially home to Australia’s most delicious drinking water, with the local drop taking out the national Ixom Best Tasting Tap Water award for 2022.

Produced at Melbourne Water’s Cresswell Water Treatment Plant, and delivered to the community by Yarra Valley Water, the water came out on top after being sniffed, sipped and assessed for colour, clarity, odour and taste by a panel of technical experts. 

While a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to produce top-quality water, Melbourne Water Managing Director Nerina Di Lorenzo said one of the key reasons why Melbourne has outstanding drinking water is the health of its protected catchments.

“The Cresswell plant produces drinking water for the Healesville area and is a wonderful example of the world-class water Melbourne Water produces right throughout Melbourne,” she said. 

“Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world with protected catchments, which helps us to produce drinking water of the highest standard. 

“Melbourne Water sources the majority of Melbourne’s water from remote, forested mountain streams. This process, coupled with our protected catchments, is the reason why most of our drinking water needs very little treatment before it hits Melbourne’s taps.”

Di Lorenzo said she is thrilled with the result and looking forward to seeing Melbourne Water’s product progress to the International Water Tasting Competition in the United States in 2023. 

“It was a tough competition. I congratulate our team, along with the other finalists,” she said. 

“We are very excited about the next step, which is representing Australia on the world stage at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Competition in the USA in February.” 

Caring for catchments

Caring for the catchment has been part of Melbourne’s approach to drinking water quality for quite some time now, Melbourne Water General Manager Infrastructure Operations David Norman said. 

“The Maroondah Reservoir catchment is situated to the north-east of Melbourne and is one of Melbourne Water’s protected catchments. This means it is essentially closed to public access, which minimises water quality risks at the source,” he said. 

“This approach to managing drinking water quality has a long history in Melbourne dating back to the late 1800s, when it was recognised that public access to water supply catchments was a key contributor to poor drinking water quality.”

The Maroondah catchment area is 10,400 hectares and harvests waters from the Watts River and Graceburn Creek into the Maroondah reservoir, which has a surface area of 200 hectares and a capacity of 22,179 megalitres. 

Norman said Melbourne Water shares catchment management responsibilities with Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). 

“The catchment is managed in a way to minimise the impact of weeds or bushfire and preserve its biodiversity,” he said. 

But Melbourne Water also pays close attention to issues introduced during weather events to help ensure the best quality water is captured for provision. 

“Water quality in the creek and weir can be impacted by rainfall events,” Norman said. 

“When we have sufficient water already treated and stored, during heavy rain the treatment plant will cease operation, so that we are only taking the best quality water, and giving it a final polish.

“The Cresswell plant process includes aluminium chlorohydrate for pre-coagulation, ultra membrane filtration, liquid caustic for pH correction and sodium hypochlorite for disinfection.”

Serving excellence

While Melbourne Water manages the water supply catchments, major water storages and operates the treatment plant, Yarra Valley Water distributes the award-winning water to the Healesville community. 

To be recognised at a national level is a huge achievement and demonstrates the excellent quality of Melbourne’s water, Yarra Valley Water Managing Director Pat McCafferty said. 

“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in treatment plants to provide clean and pleasant drinking water on a daily basis,” he said.

“This award is a testament to the excellent quality of Melbourne's water, and to the commitment of our operating teams who work hard to ensure the water we deliver is not only safe, but also tastes good.

“Water is a vital part of our everyday life, so we’re very fortunate to have access to healthy, clean drinking water straight from our taps. We’d also like to acknowledge everyone in the water industry who’s dedicated to providing safe drinking water for their communities.”