The consumption of groundwater from Victoria’s aquifers is managed according to groundwater catchments. The groundwater management framework covers groundwater catchments and groundwater basins in Victoria.
The groundwater catchments allow for all users in a connected groundwater resource to be managed consistently. Rural Water Authorities and the Department of Sustainability and Environment also may use them to report on entitlement, use and management across Victoria.
Within groundwater catchments are management units. These units are capable of adapting to future consumption patterns or emerging threats to groundwater resources. The basis of rules can be a Groundwater Management Area or Water Supply Protection Area.
In Victoria groundwater is managed through a range of actions:
- Licences are issued to protect the rights of licence holders; ensure that water is shared amongst users; and to ensure that environmental requirements are protected. To generate greater understanding about groundwater licensing for commercial purposes DSE has prepared the Groundwater Licensing and Trading Fact Sheet (PDF~229kb).
- Permissible consumptive volumes (PCVs) are caps that can be imposed to prevent the resource being depleted or adverse impacts such as declining groundwater levels, reducing base flows in rivers and streams, or changes to water quality. A PCV is a cap set by the Minister for Water and is the maximum volume of water that can be allocated in a GMU.
The declaration of a PCV for an area provides certainty as to the limits of groundwater able to be extracted. Currently PCVs are set for GMAs and WSPAs but not for remaining areas. Many GMAs and WSPAs are already allocated to their PCV limit. In these areas new licences cannot be issued. The only way to acquire new water in these areas is to purchase a licence from an existing groundwater entitlement holder.
- Management plans and management rules can be used to manage groundwater resources equitably and sustainably where there is a risk to the resource.
- Monitoring and metering is used to track groundwater use. The water levels in approximately 2500 observation bores across the state are regularly monitored to assist with responsible management of groundwater resources for long term sustainability.