Lake Eildon houseboats in the clear on greywater

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Victorian government backs down on greywater treatment rules.

Houseboat owners and operators on Lake Eildon in Victoria have won a reprieve from government regulations that would have required greywater treatment systems to be fitted on all houseboats by 2020.

The regulations introduced in 2013 had stipulated that all houseboats have an appropriate greywater treatment system (GWTS) fitted by 1 July 2020 to prevent the discharge of dirty water into the lake. The regulations also required all houseboats to be fitted with a treatment system before being sold to a new owner, potentially adding a significant expense for boat owners looking to sell.

A report prepared for the government earlier this year revealed the slow uptake of GWTS on the lake with only about 50 out of 720 houseboats fitted with an appropriate system. Houseboat owners and operators cited the lack of reliable systems and the cost of installation as factors preventing their take-up. The report also found that while greywater discharge from houseboats added to health and environmental risks in specific locations and under certain conditions, the impact was expected to be “minimal in the whole-of-lake context”.

In response, the state government has decided to rescind the requirement for houseboat owners to install greywater treatment systems on all houseboats. The pre-sale requirement to have a system installed has also been lifted.

“Until reliability and installation issues can be eliminated it is not appropriate to continue to ask houseboat owners to install these systems at such considerable cost,” said the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) in a statement.

“We’re committed to improving the health of Lake Eildon and will continue to work with houseboat owners and manufacturers to explore options for increased usage of simpler, cheaper, alternative greywater systems to improve water quality in Lake Eildon in the future.”

In a statement, the Lake Eildon Houseboat Industry Association (LEHIA) welcomed the minister's decision.

“LEHIA welcomes the decision of the state government to alter the Lake Eildon Houseboat Regulations pertaining to GWTS. However, there is considerable angst within the industry as to how the issue has been handled by state government departments and agencies over the last five years.”

LEHIA said it is committed to maintaining and improving water quality on the lake to ensure a healthy recreational experience.

“LEHIA is prepared to work with government departments and agencies as a respected partner to ensure any impacts from houseboating on Lake Eildon are minimised in a well-planned, reliable and cost-effective manner.”

DELWP also announced that until new regulations are made, Goulburn Murray Water, the agency which manages houseboat operations on the lake, will provide a $100 annual discount on houseboat licence fees for owners who have a GWTS installed.

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