Greater Melbourne
City Portrait

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Ecological CeilingSocial FoundationThe safe and just space for Greater Melbourne •


The Melbourne Doughnut

Explore how well Melbourne is tracking as a place that supports people and planet to thrive.

Dimension profile

Freshwater Withdrawals

In Safe Space

Water is essential for life and is widely used by agriculture, industry and households. Excessive withdrawals of water, however, can impair or even dry up lakes, rivers and aquifers, damaging ecosystems and altering the hydrological cycle and climate.

Contributors to Freshwater Withdrawals

Human interventions in blue and green water functions could generate non-linear and irrevocable change, and collapse, in ecosystems and hydrological systems. Contributors to Freshwater Withdrawals include:

  • Excessive freshwater consumption by households, industry and government that depletes water supplies
  • Redirection or artificial control of waterways that alters their natural, life-supporting functionality

Planetary Quotas for Greater Melbourne

Each dimension of the Ecological Ceiling is measured using per-capita Planetary Quotas for Greater Melbourne.

Water Consumption

In Safe Space

Excessive water consumption is impacting waterway health and stability of water systems

What we're measuring Greater Melbourne Quotas Now

Volume of blue water consumption

Under 4.83b m3 per year 1.19b m3 per year

Placing Freshwater Withdrawals in the system

Global to local connections

Australia is the driest inhabited continent and feels the effects of drought acutely. The control and management of water supplies are contentious issues nationally, regionally and at local levels and associated decision-making visibly impacts ecosystem health, local economies and community health and wellbeing. Care for Greater Melbourne's water systems can be enhanced through actions such as:

  • Increasing use of recycled water to reduce pressure on drinking water supplies
  • Capturing stormwater through design interventions to naturally water urban landscapes
  • Building soil moisture and health to better retain water and reduce the need for watering
  • Planting landscapes that are suitable to Greater Melbourne's anticipated future climate

Learn more

How was this dimension developed?

The Freshwater Withdrawals dimension of the Greater Melbourne City Portrait has been developed in collaboration with Open Corridor with research support from the University of Melbourne. The assessment of Melbourne's environmental footprint applies a Planetary Accounting approach. A detailed description of the City Portrait methodology is outlined in the About section of the website.

Where can I access the data?

Data for Freshwater Withdrawals, along with the other Ecological Ceiling dimensions are available in the Ecological Ceiling Dataset.

For Social Foundation dimensions, see the Social Foundations Dataset.

Where can I find more information on Freshwater Withdrawals in a regenerative Melbourne?

The City Portrait is informed by extensive research and resources on Doughnut Economics and related frameworks, as well as sector-specific research associated with each dimension. More detailed research that has informed the Freshwater Withdrawals dimension is available to explore via Altiorem's library.

How can I get involved?

To get involved with ongoing development of the City Portrait or learn more about Regen Melbourne, email