Infographic: How much water is needed to grow Melbourne’s food?

New research from the Foodprint Melbourne project has found that it takes over 475 litres of water per person per day to grow our food.

Melbourne Eats Water. Over 475L per day to grow each person's food. It's getting drier. Farmers are running out of water. Melbourne's two water treatment plants produce recycled water. 84% goes out into the sea. Just 10% would be enough to grow half of the vegetables that melbourne eats. Recycled water could help droughtproof our local fruit and vegetables. This is the amount of irrigation water (e.g. from rivers) used – it doesn’t include rainwater used to grow our food or water used in processing or manufacturing our food.

Around 758 gigalitres of water is needed to grow enough food to feed Greater Melbourne for a year. This is around double the amount of water used in homes, which is approximately 376 gigalitres per year.

South-East Australia is experiencing increasing drought and extreme heat events, and there is likely to be less water available to grow food in future.

Melbourne’s water treatment plants produce recycled water that can be used to grow food once it is treated to a high standard. Only a small amount of this water is currently used for agriculture, but recycled water is likely to have a bigger role in growing food in a drying climate.

Using recycled water in Melbourne’s Foodbowl

Melbourne’s two water treatment plants (the Eastern and Western Treatment Plants) produce just over 300 gigalitres of recycled water each year. Just 6% of this water is currently used for agriculture, 10% for other uses and the remaining 84% is released out to sea.

Foodprint Melbourne research shows that just 10% of the recycled water produced by the two water treatment plants could grow around half of the vegetables needed to feed Melbourne each year.

Melbourne’s two main water treatment plants are located close to key vegetable growing areas in Melbourne’s West (Werribee) and South-East (Casey, Cardinia and the Mornington Peninsula), presenting a unique opportunity to ‘drought proof’ some areas of Melbourne’s foodbowl.

Recycled water from both plants is already used to grow vegetables, but there is a significant amount of unused Class A recycled water (suitable for food production) available from the Eastern Treatment Plant after an upgrade of the plant was completed in 2012. Recycled water is also available from smaller water treatment plants around the fringe of Melbourne.

Not all of the unused recycled water produced by the water treatment plants can currently be used for agriculture, because agricultural demand is highly seasonal, and because of a lack of the necessary infrastructure to produce recycled water of the appropriate quality, store recycled water and to pipe this water to farmers in some areas.

To deliver recycled water to more farmers requires investment in the necessary infrastructure. This investment has the potential to effectively ‘drought proof’ some parts of Melbourne’s foodbowl, securing local vegetable production in these areas.


For more information about the project contact Dr. Rachel Carey

Email –

Phone – 0425 739 529

Melbourne Eats Water
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