On this page:

The Evidence base for Victorian water: availability and knowledge initiative enables delivery of the essential water availability information that underpins water security for Victoria and provides the government with the critically important continuity of capacity and expertise in the department to deal with increasingly dry conditions and the pressures this brings.

This initiative delivers four Water for Victoria actions (either in full or in part), including:

  • Action 2.2: Understand and apply climate science to water management.
  • Action 8.6: Commence the long-term water resource assessment process.
  • Action 8.10: To provide clear information about water resources to the community.
  • Action 8.11: To improve water resource information to support planning and decisions.

This initiative complements 2 others that address water sharing (the rules and levers for sharing water) and the Water Register (the technology platform that records water use and entitlements).

Environmental contribution 5 (EC5)

Program title 202021 expenditure ($'000) 2021–22
expenditure ($'000)
2022–23 expenditure ($'000)

The evidence base for Victorian water: availability and knowledge


Understand and apply climate science to water

The Victorian Water and Climate Initiative (VicWaCI) is an initiative to implement Action 2.2 in Water for Victoria.

This action continues to build our understanding of how climate change will affect water resources by

  • investing in research on climate change
  • building partnerships with stakeholders to share knowledge and apply research to policy, planning and practice.

VicWaCI seeks to better understand our climate and water resource situation through its partnership between the department, the Bureau of Meteorology, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Engagement in the water sector

Engagement with the water sector took place in the first year to support the application of the Guidelines for Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Water Availability in Victoria in the next iteration of water corporations’ Urban Water Strategies and the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (CGRSWS). These Guidelines are used by Victorian water corporations to inform planning and decision making on short to very long-term scales.

Commencing the second phase of VicWaCI

The second phase of the VicWaCI commenced in July 2021, with research partners the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. The research continues to improve understanding of how the water cycle has changed over time and climate change's influence on water resources.

Research findings and advice from the program have been applied in a diverse range of water resource planning processes, including long-term climate trends incorporated into Annual Water Outlook reports produced each year by water corporations and DEECA.

A key objective of the research is to ensure it remains user-focused so that it helps facilitate and fast track application of the best available science, reflecting the current context for water management in Victoria.

The research program continues to build in the latest information as it becomes, for example the latest findings from new global climate models. Research activities in the program have also have an expanded focus on extreme events and variability in climate and water resources, partly in response to the climate events experienced in recent years along with an increasing ability for the science to provide insights.

Surface water assessment and modelling

This program undertakes surface water assessment and modelling tasks to support the sustainable management of Victoria’s water resources through:

  • the security and transparency of the Victorian entitlement framework and planning
  • effective interstate water-sharing arrangements.

The surface water analysis and models are fundamental to the delivery of Water for Victoria actions and informing Government’s decision-making on initiatives to sustainably manage water resources such as:

  • Victoria’s water grid augmentation
  • The quantification of climate change impacts
  • Sustainable diversion limits under Murray-Darling Basin Plan
  • The long-term water resource assessment
  • Sustainable water strategies and urban water strategies
  • Equitable sharing of resources between consumptive, environmental, recreational and cultural users.

Legislative compliance obligations

The annual assessment of Victoria’s compliance with the cap on water diversions (schedule E of the MDB Agreement) and sustainable diversion limit (Section 71 of Water Act 2007 Cth) has been undertaken, resulting in Victoria successfully meeting legislative compliance obligations for 2020–21 and 2021–22.

Sustainable diversion Limits and Trends in water use

Prepared communication materials on Sustainable Diversion Limits and Trends in Water Use in Northern Victoria.

National strategy for hydrological modelling

Worked closely with and provided expert advice to National Water Reform Committee (NWRC) Independent Advisor for development of the National Hydrological Modelling Strategy with high-level implementation plan, and established NWRC Hydrological Modelling subcommittee to oversee the NHMS objectives.

Enhanced environmental water delivery project

Supported Enhanced environmental water delivery project, including advising on Victorian hydrological models and participating in meetings and workshops to progress the project.

Murray-Darling Basin

Technical contributions to and representation in interjurisdictional committees for advice on matters related to

  • River Murray operations
  • Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) water resource availability
  • Key water management activities
  • MDB inter-state water sharing arrangements.

Source modelling platform software

Maintained and improved the Source modelling platform software by working closely with jurisdictions and eWater, and developed and improved daily Source models of Victorian systems.

Community of practice

Led community of practice for hydrological modelling in Victoria and regular communication and consultation with Victorian stakeholders through Victorian Hydrological Modelling Group, to deliver improved hydrological modelling capabilities.

Model Management System (MMS)

Significant progress in development of Model Management System (MMS).

  • completion of Model Catalog to allow modellers to publish, search and filter based on metadata and request access to models
  • Department Architecture Review Board endorsement of initial concept design for proposed MMS
  • completion of Information Security Assessment, System Security Plan and Privacy Impact Assessment for model datastores
  • configuration and maintenance of model datastores for more than 20 Source models and 2 REALM models

Development of forecast Source models

Development of forecast Source models, namely implementation of forecast Source model as a sub model within the Wimmera-Glenelg Source planning model and development of a forecasting version of the Ovens Source model.

Long-term water resource assessment

Long-term water resource assessments (LTWRA) are a key tool to monitor the state of Victoria’s water resources.

These assessments determine whether long-term resource availability has changed and if so, whether there has been a disproportionate impact on water available for consumptive use or the environment.

The water Planning an Impact Assessment Projects and Planning team provides ongoing technical expertise and the evidence base to support the development and implementation of initiatives like the CGRSWS. This includes support for the CGRSWS actions that respond to the disproportionate decline in water available to the environment in several river basins identified by the LTWRA technical assessment for southern Victoria.

Technical evidence base to support the development of the CGRSWS

Technical assessments and consultative activities were undertaken to inform the evidence base for policy directions and action in the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (CGRSWS), including to refined water availability information, to revise Melbourne Water diversion limit compliance method for ensuring sustainable management of water resources in the system over the long term, and preparation of the Technical guide to figures (Oct 2021) to support the CGRSWS Discussion Draft: Read the Technical Guide to Figures in Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy.

Long-Term Water Resource Assessments

Delivered the first legislative Long-Term Water Resource Assessment for southern Victoria in March 2020 – involving development the methodology, undertaking technical assessments, engaging with water sector, stakeholders and the community on draft findings prior to the Minister for Water releasing the final report.

Worked with Waterway Programs Branch and the Environment Protection Authority to improve future waterway health monitoring programs to meet the data needs for future Long-Term Water Resource Assessments.

The methodology for the Long-Term Water Resource Assessment for northern Victoria, currently planned for 2025, is being developed based on these experiences.

Working with the community and stakeholders

Supported community and stakeholder community information and engagement sessions and webinars for the draft CCGRSWS and in response to public submissions related to the LTWRA response process and water availability across the Central and Gippsland Region.

Addressing the impacts of mining and extractive industries

This initiative also supports progressive reviews and advice on mine rehabilitation applications, including the development of high-level guidance on how water from the Latrobe River system may be allocated and accessed as part of Latrobe Valley mine rehabilitation. This is part of broader work to ensure sustainable water management is considered in other sector’s activities, and throughout the energy transition in Victoria.

Groundwater assessment and modelling

The groundwater assessment and modelling program includes:

  • Reviewing and assessing the sustainable level of groundwater use in 75% of systems across Victoria.
  • Preparing for the long-term water resource technical groundwater assessments in Northern Victoria.
  • Provision of expert analysis, advice and input into policy development and licensing decisions for the sustainable management of groundwater resources.
  • Refurbishment of State Observation Bores.
  • Supporting the administration and technical assessments of the Border Groundwater Agreement.

This program continues to deliver on Action 8.11 of Water for Victoria to improve water resource information to support planning and decisions, and enable several other actions listed in Water for Victoria.

The project also delivers on some of the Minister’s obligations under the Water Act 1989Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, Water Act 2007 (Cwlth), Water Amendment Act 2008 (Cwlth), Sustainable Diversion Limit compliance, Groundwater (Border Agreement) Act 1985 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (Cwlth).

Groundwater sustainable yield project

Progress has been made on the groundwater sustainable yield project including the development of draft methodology for assessments, including consultation with key stakeholders.

Independent reviewers have been appointed, and the project methodology has been reviewed by agency stakeholders and the independent technical experts.

Preliminary state-wide assessments have been drafted by contractors.

Draft policy implications will be developed and reviewed by agency stakeholders over 2023–24.

Sustainable management of groundwater resources

Provision of expert analysis, advice and input into policy development and licensing decisions for the sustainable management of groundwater resources, including:

  • input into the development of Groundwater 2030.
  • the CGRSWS.
  • advice was also provided on Hazelwood mine rehabilitation project Environmental Effects Statement, Alcoa mine rehabilitation and Barwon Water’s Anglesea bulk entitlement.

State observation bores works

Refurbishment of four priority bores and construction of 20 new bores has been completed ahead of schedule and below budget, enabling works to be expanded to include additional high priority sites/bores.

Statutory requirements

The Groundwater (Border Agreement) Act 1985 (the Agreement) requires Annual Reports to be prepared and tabled in parliament – this includes the 2020–21 Annual Report and the 2021–22 Annual Report (the 2022-23 Annual Report is still in preparation by the Review Committee).

The Agreement also requires reviews of groundwater resources in the Designated Area every five years, and the Province 2 review was completed in 2022–23.

Reporting of annual (2020–21 and 2021–22) groundwater use, trade and compliance with s71 requirements in the Murray Darling Basin consistent with the Water Act 2007 Cwth requirements and Victorian Water Resource Plans was completed (the report for 2022–23 is in preparation).

Implemented the Commonwealth’s Automatic Mutual Recognition legislation in respect to Driller’s Licensing in Victoria.

Updated salinity maps to support the Environment Protection Act, Environmental Reference Standards groundwater segments.

Surface water and ground water monitoring

This program focuses on the fundamental role of government as steward of the state’s water resources, which includes

  • Establishing and maintaining water monitoring assets;
  • Delivering a water quantity and quality monitoring program; and
  • Communicating information.

This program supports the security and transparency of the Victorian entitlement framework and planning and is required to meet obligations under the Water Act 1989 and implementation of commitments in Water for Victoria.

This requires government oversight to ensure it provides access to water resource information that is clear, transparent, and user-friendly for the community and stakeholders.

Improved water monitoring, analysis and sharing of information assists environmental and consumptive water users to understand the options available to them and to use those options to meet the challenges of changing industry circumstances and water availability.

Surface water and groundwater monitoring data is collected as part of the Regional Water Monitoring Partnership (RWMP). The RWMP consists of 56 agencies that come together to share the cost of monitoring. DEECA manages and coordinates the RWMP on behalf of the 56 partners.

Monitoring, modelling and analysis

Ongoing monitoring from Victoria’s key gauging stations and groundwater observation bores is a vital input to the modelling and analysis required to develop our understanding of both short-term variability and long-term trends in the state’s water resources. This knowledge basis is vital for long-term and short-term planning and licensing decisions, compliance, and enforcement. The department works with water corporations and catchment management authorities to:

  • continue to invest in ongoing statewide surface water and groundwater monitoring networks.
  • improve the quality and accuracy of monitoring data through investment in infrastructure upgrades and new technologies to receive more timely data.
  • improve the accessibility of data and provide a range of information products that meet community expectations.

Regular monitoring and maintenance

  • Regular monitoring and maintenance at 950 surface water sites
  • Regular monitoring and maintenance at 1400 groundwater sites
  • Regular water quality monitoring and/or laboratory analysis for 459 sites
  • All monitoring data collected was published on the Water Measurement Information System
  • Coordination and management of the Regional Water Monitoring Partnership

Redesign of the Water Measurement Information System website

  • A redesign of the Water Measurement Information System website is well advanced. This followed 10 months of consultation with users to see what improvements they would like to see to the website, so that the website better meets their needs. The redesign will see vastly improved functionality that allows improved search, display and download functions.

Water quality laboratory analysis

New 5-year water quality laboratory analysis approved and signed.

Water Monitoring Upgrades

  • 2,195 repairs and or equipment updates at surface water monitoring sites.
  • 1,015 sites upgraded from 3G to 4G in preparation for the 3G network being turned off in 2024.
  • Upgrade of Regional Water Monitoring Partnership management system for surface water, water quality and groundwater contracts to meet partner requirements to allow improved management of non routine monitoring and build functionality to track expected vs actual gauging expenditure.

Impact of bushfires on water quality

Completed an analysis of the impact of bushfires on water quality, to understand how water quality has been impacted by the bushfires and how long water quality parameters take to return to normal levels.

Redesigning field cabinets

Work underway with the University of Melbourne on redesigning field cabinets to better withstand bushfires, so that there is minimal loss of equipment and data.

Water accounting and reporting

We are the business owner for Victorian Water Register (VWR) services, with the department delegated with the Minister’s legislative responsibilities to:

  • issue water allocation against entitlements in accordance with the respective resource managers’ seasonal determinations
  • apply carryover rules for unused water allocation and licence volumes.
  • apply water trading rules.

The department's Water Accounting and Reporting function is also responsible for :

  • producing the annual Victorian Water Accounts, a comprehensive annual account of the use and availability of Victoria’s water resources
  • water register help desk function
  • ensuring the collection of funds for the operation of the register as per agreed cost sharing with the register partners
  • working with rural water corporations to improve water register services to enhance the customer experience and reduce processing costs
  • contributing to the development of the new water register.

More information on how EC5 supports the Victorian Water Register.

2020–21 Victorian Water Accounts (VWA), and released by June 2022 with more online access to data and content, additional content moved online for groundwater reporting as well as new map based data visualisations.

The project to replace VWA written report with a comprehensive digital version of the report commenced in 2022, with the redesign phase completed and build process commenced in 2023 and set to launch in late 2023.

Water resource reporting

Internal and public-facing water resource reporting updated weekly, with a focus on storage levels, rainfall, water allocations and restrictions.

Water snapshot improvements

Improvements made to the water snapshot to provide clearer and more detailed access to resource condition information, including easy access to past data on storages, restrictions and trends.

Knowledge and insights

To deliver equitable and transparent water stewardship, the government must ensure water information is published in a clear and accessible manner for policymakers, water users and the public as a whole.

The project's purpose is to take water data, information and reports created by the department and make it easier for the public to find, understand and engage with this information.

An additional planned component of this initiative was the development of a water insights library to improve the department’s internal cataloguing of water data. However, this project did not proceed past the feasibility stage due to funding constraints.

Science of water modelling

Created social media content to increase public engagement with Victorian water data and provide insights into how Victoria manages surface and groundwater, now and into the future. This included developing and releasing a video animation on the science of water modelling: from map to tap, see Surface water modelling.

Water education portal

Working closely with the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria on the development of a Water Education Portal, which will offer an interactive web space for students and teachers to learn about key areas of water management while supporting the use and delivery of the student and teacher lesson plans developed in year one of EC5.

Compliance – Visualising our Communications project

Supported the delivery of phase one of the Compliance – Visualising our Communications project. This project delivered key marketing provisions to communicate improved non-urban water compliance information and education to support water users better to remain compliant with their licences and entitlements. It additionally provided photography, video and interview content for use in communications across the Water and Catchments Group. Has allowed for more engaging and modern communications to members of the public

Page last updated: 15/11/23