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River regulation and climate change have interrupted many of the natural river and wetland processes. Native plants and animals depend on these processes to survive and thrive.

Water for the environment is released into some of these rivers and wetlands to improve their health. There are, however, physical and operational barriers that prevent some low-lying floodplains from being watered, and these barriers are known as constraints.

Better outcomes for the environment

We aim to enhance environmental, recreational and cultural outcomes, by looking at how already-available water for the environment could be delivered to these areas.

We are exploring opportunities to enhance higher river flow to re-establish natural river and wetland processes that support healthy fish, bird and vegetation populations. Under predicted climate change scenarios, these systems are less likely to receive enough water in the future.

Victoria is investigating restoring minor flooding in the Murray and Goulburn rivers. Our investigations are focused below the minor flood level as moderate and major floods would require vast amounts of water. Major flooding would also impact industry, agricultural production, infrastructure and urban centres.

However, restoring flows to below minor flood levels may impact private land, agricultural production, stock, private access roads and other public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and culverts.

The Victorian Constraints Measures Program (CMP)

The CMP is exploring how enhanced natural river flows could be delivered while managing risks and impacts to public and private land, infrastructure, stock, crops and people.

The CMP is part of a wider initiative that makes the best use of available water for the environment and delivers water to where it’s needed.

Another great example is the Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP). These projects help reduce the need for further water recovery by delivering water to inaccessible areas.

What does this mean for Victoria?

There are 6 constraints projects across the Southern Connected Basin. These are:

  • Hume to Yarrawonga
  • Yarrawonga to Wakool Junction
  • Goulburn
  • Murrumbidgee
  • Lower Darling
  • Lower Murray (South Australia).

Victoria is the sole proponent for the Goulburn River project and a joint proponent with New South Wales for the Hume to Yarrawonga project.

Overhead drone footage of the Goulburn Murray River area
Overhead drone footage of the Goulburn Murray River area

Engaging with stakeholders

The initial stage of the program considers how higher river flows might affect stakeholders. A feasibility study will explore the impacts in the Murray and Goulburn Rivers. A Consultative Committee will also provide advice and input.

It's important to note we will not flood private land without the landholder's consent. We will not use compulsory powers to acquire land or easements either.

Victoria will engage with landholders to better understand the program’s benefits and impacts to the community if the program proceeds to the next stage.

Traditional Owners are a pivotal partner in water resource planning and management. In Stage 1A, Traditional Owners of northern Victoria will identify cultural, environmental, and social benefits. Their work also identifies the risks that may arise from reconnecting floodplains.

Links to Basin Plan

The Victorian CMP targets the larger environmental objectives of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The Victorian Government will consider the findings and determine if the program should progress. The study is earmarked for completion in December 2023.

The Victorian CMP aims to deliver water from storages on the back of higher, natural flows. This will improve connectivity between river reaches and the surrounding floodplains in the Southern Connected Basin.

The VMFRP also delivers water to high value sites This includes sites higher up on the floodplain. New works and infrastructure will hold water for the environmental for longer periods so water can meet the environmental needs of plants and animals.

Both programs complement each other and are central to delivering environmental, recreational and cultural benefits to local communities.

A staged approach to the Victorian Constraints Measures Program

The Victorian CMP aims to enhance the delivery of already-available water for the environment. This will improve environmental outcomes in the Goulburn and Murray River systems. It will examine relaxing constraints in 3 key areas:

It will examine relaxing constraints in 3 key areas:

  • Goulburn River: from Lake Eildon to the confluence with the Murray River
  • Murray River: from Lake Hume to Yarrawonga Weir
  • Murray River: from Yarrawonga Weir to the confluence of the Wakool River.
A staged approach to the Victorian constraints measures programState 1aFeasibility studyAre the projects potentially feasible to implement?What are the community consents?What could future governance engagement look like?If subsequent stages were to proceed what key activities must be undertaken to address community concernsConsultative committeetraditional owner engagementWe are hereDecision pointStage 1BBusiness caseEngagement with affected land holders and the broader communityDetailed technical investigationsWhat are the land holder and community consents? What needs to change?Decision pointStage 1CImplementation planningDesign of worksWorks and compensation agreementsregulatory approvalsDecision pointStage 2ImplementationImplementation activitiesStage 1B to 2Engagement and ground truthing with landowners and traditional ownersSkype and timing of future stages pending insights of consultative committeeAll decision points are by the Victorian Minister for water
A staged approach to the Victorian Constraints Measures Program

Feasibility study

The feasibility study will consider the benefits and risks along the entire length of the Goulburn and Murray rivers. While the focus will be on Victoria's projects, it will consider impacts on South Australia.

The Victorian CMP will be delivered through the following stages. Each stage has key decision points set that will decide if subsequent stages should be funded:

Priorities include:

  • working with and responding to suggestions and ideas from the Consultative Committee to develop a robust feasibility study. This involves:
  • filling data gaps
  • updating modelling tools
  • assessing the cultural, recreational and environmental benefits and impacts of changed flows
  • considering policy aspects such as how landowners can be compensated for any impacts
  • looking at river operation requirements
  • outlining a range of options to introduce more natural river flows including periodic flows generally up to the minor flood levels.

The results of Stage 1A will determine if there are viable options that could sensibly deliver enhanced natural river flows. The Victorian Government will decide if the program should proceed to Stage 1B with advice from the Consultative Committee.

This stage will further develop the options in Stage 1A. Where identified, further modelling may be completed and ground-truthing of inundation modelling will be undertaken with local communities.

Areas and assets that are likely to be affected by revised river operating rules will be mapped in further detail and impacts and ways to address them will be identified in consultation with stakeholders.

These measures will be tested individually with impacted landholders and asset owners, to seek in-principle agreement on the impacts and compensation arrangements.

This phase involves obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals and submitting a business case to implement the program.

This stage focuses on implementing the program, including construction activities where necessary.

Overhead drone footage of the Goulburn-Murray area
Overhead drone footage of the Goulburn Murray River area

Stage 1A - the current stage

This stage is to investigate the feasibility of the program. Technical work and investigations being undertaken include:

  • surveying of the river channel and key features
  • hydrological modelling to determine when, for how long, and how often flows could occur
  • hydraulic modelling to determine the extent of land that will be watered
  • identifying preliminary impacts on land and assets
  • considering policy aspects such as how landowners can be compensated for any impacts
  • cultural benefits and impact assessments
  • environmental benefits and impact assessments
  • social and recreational benefit assessments
  • construction of additional streamflow and rainfall monitoring sites in the Goulburn River to increase the data available to inform river operations
  • reviewing what changes may be required for river operations
  • reviewing legislative frameworks
  • planning for future community engagement should the program proceed.

Consultative Committee

To achieve the community-centred objectives of Stage 1A, a Consultative Committee has been established.

Independently chaired by the Hon. Patrick McNamara, the Committee is a forum for the members to provide comments and input on the design and feasibility of the program.

The Consultative Committee comprises members from:

  • Registered Aboriginal Parties
  • local landholders and irrigators
  • community members
  • river operators
  • Council representation
  • Catchment Management Authorities
  • land managers and agencies
  • representative bodies and impacted agencies.

DEECA engaged with agencies to identify community members who had experience and knowledge across water-based issues.

Your questions answered

Read the Victorian Constraints Measures Program common questions.

Program information and related resources

Business cases

Other resources

Environmental videos

Page last updated: 16/10/23