2009 – Impact of severe fire on Melbourne’s water supply infrastructure

Tommie Conway, Katherine Miller, Peter Hill

The ‘Black Saturday’ fires of the 7th of February 2009 and the continuation of fires over the following weeks had devastating human, environmental and financial costs for Victoria. Many of Melbourne’s water supply catchments and assets were burnt and the major harvesting catchments were seriously threatened. This paper highlights the need for owners and managers of catchments, dams and associated infrastructure to better understand and plan for the potential impacts of fire, given its predicted increased likelihood and severity due to climate change.

The paper will share Melbourne Water’s recent experiences of the fire, the scale of the impact to the business in terms of assets damaged and catchments affected, the extent of the burn and the threat that was faced. It will describe Melbourne Water’s experience with the United States Burnt Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to expediently map the severity of the fires, to identify areas of concern and prioritise fire recovery works. Of interest to those involved in risk management will be the discussion of the construction flood risk analysis at Tarago Reservoir which was revisited due to severe fire damage to the catchment.

Keywords: fire impact, Melbourne’s water catchments, BAER team, hydrology, Tarago, construction flood risk analysis

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