CLIMATE VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT FOR WESTERNPORT WATER

Since 2012, the regulatory context around climate adaptation planning has evolved to recognise the need for consistency and collaboration across different regions. Under the Climate Change Act 2017, the water sector has been chosen to pilot climate change adaptation plans. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) are completing a pilot sector-wide plan, but each utility is also expected to have their own adaptation plan. Water for Victoria Chapter 2 and the Water Minister’s Letter of Expectations to the industry for 2017/18 highlight the need for water authorities to take the lead on climate adaptation.

These developments directly influenced Westernport Water (WPW) Corporate Plan 2017-2022, in which WPW committed to “finalise WPW’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy and develop project options” in response to Water for Victoria’s Priority Policy Areas.

To contribute to the realisation of this commitment, WPW engaged Point Advisory to assist with the preparation of WPW’s Climate Adaptation Plan, in line with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) Climate Change Adaptation Guidelines (co-authored by Point Advisory team members in previous roles). The first stage was to undertake a high level climate vulnerability assessment of WPW’s critical functions (i.e. functions critical to the survival of the business) to identify priority risk areas. This was done by means of a climate adaptation assessment workshop to build an understanding across the organisation of potential climate futures and how they can impact (negatively or positively) WPW assets and operations using the ‘systems at risk’ approach. Informed by a contextual analysis on WPW’s operating environment, key existing challenges and elements of organisational resilience, and collaborative work carried out during the workshop with WPW board and key stakeholders, climate-related vulnerabilities and opportunities were identified and prioritised based on their significance and immediacy. The assessment showed that most ‘systems at risk’ (or critical functions) are likely to be impacted one way or another, with some vulnerabilities and opportunities being clearly interlinked. This highlighted the need for WPW to consider (and mitigate) its overall vulnerability to climate change in a holistic way.

The identified priority risk areas will be further investigated in the second stage of the project through a more detailed climate risk assessment. This will inform the identification and/or design of adaptation actions and pathways to form WPW’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan.