Goulburn River near Murchison - Photo by M. Judd, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, 2018
The Murray-Darling Basin spans over half of Victoria, with a number of rivers flowing directly into Australia’s longest river, the River Murray. Victoria’s rivers are a source of water supply for domestic water use, extensive agriculture and irrigated production. Rivers and wetlands support the cultural values and practices of local Aboriginal traditional owners and are at the heart of tourism and recreation, attracting canoeists, campers, anglers, bushwalkers, birdwatchers, water-skiers and boaters all year round.
Water for the environment delivered at the right time and in the right place is restoring those natural waterways affected by river regulation and man-made infrastructure.
The Victorian river system is highly connected and contains a myriad of significant floodplains and wetlands that are home to many unique native plants and animals including threatened species and communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Commonwealth environmental water is delivered in the following river systems: Loddon, Campaspe, Ovens, Goulburn-Broken and Wimmera.
Delivery of water for the environment to date
The health of the Victorian rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin reflects 20 years of harsh climate conditions. Over this period there was prolonged drought between 1997 and 2010, significant flooding in 2010 and 2011, wet conditions in 2012-13 and a subsequent series of three moderate to dry years until 2016-17 which was wet. Dry years followed in 2017-18 to 2019-20 with dry to moderate conditions in 2020-21 to 2021-22 and wet conditions in 2022-23.
Environmental watering in northern Victoria has focused on supporting year-round low flows along with higher in-channel flows (such as freshes) in winter and spring. This has contributed to positive ecological outcomes such as maintaining vegetation condition along riverbanks and riparian zones, improved water quality and providing habitat for water bugs and native fish.
Impacts of historical dry conditions across the northern Victorian catchments mean that many of the sites continue to require water for the environment to maintain the ecological health of the waterways and have high demand.
- For information about the delivery of water for the environment since 2010-11 in Victorian Rivers please see the History summary for individual catchments.
- Water Management Plan 2022-23 provides information about the potential use of environmental water in 2022-23.
- For information about the actual use of Commonwealth environmental water in 2022-23 see: Latest water use.
What has water for the environment achieved in the Victorian Rivers?
Scientific monitoring shows that water for the environment delivered to the Victorian Rivers is providing food, habitat and breeding opportunities for native fish and helping to restore bank and in-stream plants.
The monitoring results are used to plan the flows to be delivered each year. They are also used to support decision making throughout the year when modifying planned flows in response to changing weather conditions. For example, in a dry year the planned freshes may be reduced in number or size and duration to ensure that enough water is available to deliver year-round baseflows.
Details about these findings are provided under the Monitoring tab, including links to monitoring reports and summaries.
Campaspe River. Credit: Keith Chalmers, Victorian Environmental Water Holder
Commonwealth environmental water use is planned, delivered and managed in partnership with a number of individuals and organisations in the Victorian Rivers, including:
- Victorian Environmental Water Holder
- Goulburn-Murray Water
- Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority
- North Central Catchment Management Authority
- North East Catchment Management Authority
- Wimmera Catchment Management Authority
- Mallee Catchment Management Authority
- Grampian Wimmera Mallee Water
- Murray-Darling Basin Authority