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A healthy, working Basin has so many benefits for all users and the environment. Often, it's not only benefits that matter, but how we achieve those outcomes.

Our work in the Basin has seen us working with local communities and increasing our cultural knowledge. We're working to improve water quality and future-proofing our resources.

Each year, the Victorian Government reports its progress on the agreed outcomes. We show how we've balanced social, economic, and environmental outcomes across Victoria.

During 2021–2022, Victoria has supported the Basin Plan implementation alongside:

The Victorian Basin Plan Implementation Highlights for 2020–21 provides a summary on Victoria’s program of work and progress. Some agreed Basin milestones have included:

This complements the detailed Schedule 12 annual reporting templates. These cover Victoria’s obligations in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan for:

  • Basin Plan Schedule 12 reporting matters
  • The Basin Plan Implementation Agreement compliance requirements
  • Water for the Environment — summary across Northern Victoria.

Hattah Lakes: a waterbird breeding bonanza in the Mallee

Water for the environment saw the arrival of thousands of water birds in the Hattah Lakes. These wetlands received water in autumn and spring 2021 following a drying cycle. These short periods of drying are a natural part of the lake's water regime. However, reduced flood frequency and increasing dry periods had lowered the wetlands' condition.

The event triggered significant breeding and nesting across these lakes over the summer. There were 24 waterbird species identified breeding at the site. Surveys observed over 2,000 nests and more than 7,000 chicks.

The vast majority were colonial nesting waterbird species. Very large colonies of great cormorants gathered with other medium-sized colonies. The medium-sized colonies consisted of:

  • little black cormorant
  • little pied cormorant
  • Australasian darter.

Other waterbird species breeding in sizable numbers included:

  • Eurasian coot
  • grey teal
  • hoary-headed grebe
  • pink-eared duck
  • great crested grebe
  • yellow-billed spoonbill.

Three threatened species were also recorded breeding:

  • blue-billed duck (listed as vulnerable under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (the FFG Act)
  • musk duck (listed as vulnerable under the FFG Act)
  • white-bellied sea-eagle (listed as endangered under the FFG Act).

The breeding event continued into Autumn 2022 with high rates of chick survival, demonstrating the importance of Hattah Lakes for waterbirds, which are known to travel long distances to high-quality breeding sites. It also shows how critical environmental water is in maintaining waterbird populations and floodplain habitats across the Murray-Darling Basin.

Hattah Lakes is one of 6 designated icon sites of The Living Murray Program. The program allocates water for the environment that can restore and maintain natural river and wetlands processes. These processes support healthy vegetation, fish and bird populations.

North Central CMA's rivers and wetlands

In 2021-22, North Central CMA’s rivers and wetlands received around 68 GL of water for the environment. In spring, the Wimmera-Mallee Wetlands saw native water bird breeding at:

  • Chirrup Swamp
  • Corack Lake
  • Davis Dam
  • Falla Dam
  • Jesse Swamp.

This included 3 species of duck and Australian grebe. Water for the environment also supported terrestrial biota in the landscape.

A significant highlight this year was the successful low-flow trial in the Campaspe River in autumn. This monitoring activity formed part of the Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring Program (VEFMAP).

This program reduced flows to very low levels in autumn. This was aimed at stimulating native vegetation germination and recruitment. Wet conditions created an unexpected and dramatic reduction in irrigation demand. This gave the program an opportunity to reduce flows to very low levels and expose the bank and bench flats to the air and the sun.

The trial is an example of active adaptive management within a short window of opportunity. The program informed the community and negotiated the low flows with Goulburn-Murray Water. They also ensured monitoring was in place.

Low flow trials

Low flow trials had 2 key benefits in our understanding of waterway vegetation.

It improved our understanding of the recruitment requirements of instream plants. Also, whether exposure of the riverbed during summer/autumn can trigger germination

It improved our understanding of how environmental flows can be best managed in the context of the broader flow regime to provide germination triggers or the survival of germinates from low flow events provided specific advice for managers to inform seasonal and annual watering decisions.

In March 2022, the North Central CMA coordinated the fifth River Tour event for Traditional Owners along the Campaspe River.

The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action sponsored the event. Twenty-seven Traditional Owners attended and facilitated two-way knowledge exchange. This improved our cultural landscape and river understanding and management. Not only this, but we strengthened relationships between the CMA staff and Traditional Owners.

Delivering water for the environment in Goulburn Broken CMA

Each year, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) creates a seasonal watering plan. In the plan, over 500 GL of environmental water enters important rivers and wetlands such as:

  • Goulburn River
  • Broken Creek
  • Nine Mile Creek
  • Broken River and 9 wetlands.

The watering has promoted wetland and riparian vegetation growth and maintained water quality. It's also connected to important off-stream habitats along the Goulburn River. These habitats are home to macroinvertebrates, platypus, frogs, waterbirds and native fish.

Also, the watering has supported the spawning of:

  • golden perch in the Goulburn River
  • water-milfoil at Moodie Swamp (a nationally threatened species)
  • supported waterbird breeding at Barmah Forest.

Working with Traditional Owners in the North East

The delivery of water for the environment to the King and Buffalo River has helped Traditional Owners heal Country.

The partnership between North East CMA and Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWAC) saw 36 ML of water transferred to the VEWH. A private landholder also donated 56 ML, releasing 142 ML over 2 days in the King River in late summer.

Maintaining habitat and food for aquatic ecosystems in the Wimmera

The Wimmera River system saw 10,253 ML of water for the environment delivered in 2021-22. Waterways that benefitted include Burnt Creek, Ranch Billabong and MacKenzie River.

There were also 4,481 ML of environmental passing flows used in the Wimmera River system. These river flows maintained habitat and food resources for:

  • platypus
  • native fish (especially southern pygmy perch and obscure galaxies)
  • western swamp crayfish.

The environmental flows continued improving the river system's aquatic and fringing vegetation.

The flows were also important to support the successful platypus breeding in the Mackenzie River, with 4 juveniles discovered in one night during a survey in February.

In 2021/22, 49.7 ML was also provided to Wimmera Mallee Pipeline wetlands including:

  • Carapugna
  • Challambra Swamp
  • Mutton Swamp
  • Sawpit Swamp
  • Schultz/Koschitzke.

Come along and we will re-water the Billabong

Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BGLC) started this project to rewater the Ranch Billabong. It started with Aboriginal Waterway Assessments at many sites in the Wimmera river system.

Funded by Victoria’s Aboriginal Water Program, the BGLC partnered with:

  • Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN)
  • Wimmera CMA
  • other Traditional Owner Groups.

Together, they decided to re-water and rehabilitate the Ranch Billabong. This would benefit Country and the community the most. Ranch Billabong is a highly significant place for the Wotjobaluk community.

The project started in 2018 and ended in June 2022. The Wimmera River feeds Ranch Billabong and it's connected via a council-managed culvert. The culvert disconnected the billabong from the river at the start of the project. Initially, a small allocation of water was proposed to test the impact of re-watering on the site.

Based on the results of this trial, the management plan was reviewed and updated to assist with ongoing watering and restoration.

The plan guided activities for:

  • revegetation with native plants
  • weed control
  • improved access
  • new signage.

By the project's end, the BGLC team had delivered several environmental water flows. The billabong got 6 megalitres delivered twice a year since 2019. Water quality also improved with an increase in recorded pH and a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels.

The BGLC team installed at the Billabong:

  • 2 culverts for crossing the creeks
  • 1.1 km accessible walking track around the billabong
  • a carpark
  • commenced the installation of a BBQ area
  • seating and chairs around the billabong
  • interpretative signage (including stories from the Community)
  • a technology trial for eDNA testing and wildlife acoustic recording.

The project has supported Wotjobaluk people in connecting with their Country and increased confidence in water management.

Restoring water to the Ranch Billabong has enabled BGLC to strengthen partnerships with the water industry and improve participation in land and water management.

Further information and images are available online at the Wimmera CMA website.

Addressing water quality challenges, together

A widespread hypoxic blackwater event occurred in the Broken Creek catchment in January and February 2022. Low-oxygen (hypoxic) blackwater is water that has become low in dissolved oxygen. It occurs when large amounts of organic material in rivers are broken down by bacteria. These bacteria multiply and use up the oxygen in the water – oxygen that fish need.

As the weather warms up, bacteria multiply more quickly, increasing the risk of water becoming low in oxygen. Warmer water also holds less oxygen than cool water.

If dissolved oxygen levels fall too low, fish and other aquatic animals can die. Native fish and crustaceans are especially vulnerable to low oxygen water.

Low-oxygen blackwater doesn’t last forever. After an initial drop in oxygen levels, the organic material bacteria feed on is used up, bacteria die back and oxygen levels in the water start to return to normal. This could take days to weeks.

There was a risk the entire Broken Creek would be affected through to the Murray River at Barmah.

A multi-agency response monitored the affected waterways, both visually and by water quality testing. The response came from:

  • Goulburn Murray Water
  • Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority,
  • Parks Victoria
  • Moira Shire.

A number of water management options alleviated the impacts, including use of environmental water. This came after close consultation with Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

Local landowners first alerted agencies to the event. This allowed the responding agencies to inform all water users and the local public.

The low dissolved-oxygen conditions didn't reach the Murray River. There were minimal impacts along the lower Broken Creek, with no dead fish observed in the lower reaches.

GMW Water Efficiency Project reaches halfway milestone

The Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) Water Efficiency Project has passed the halfway mark in delivering its target of 15.9 gigalitres of environmental water savings. To date the project has achieved an estimated 8GL of water savings, subject to an audit and verification process, with the project delivering infrastructure upgrades and improvements to water delivery efficiency across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID).

The $177.5 million Water Efficiency Project, funded by the Australian Government as a State-led project, involves off-farm infrastructure works which will improve water delivery for around 1000 customers and create an estimated 1,000 local jobs. The project was identified in the 2018 Northern Victoria Water Infrastructure Prospectus and following a public consultation to determine that the project could be delivered without negatively impacting communities. The project commenced in 2021.

The Water Efficiency Project follows on from the largest irrigation modernisation project in Australian history – the recently completed Connections Project. It comprises various asset reconfiguration throughout the GMID, including the treatment of 1,021 outlets and more than 250km of channel, including the conversion of numerous sections of channel into pipelines.

The Water Efficiency Project is expected to be completed in 2024.

Page last updated: 08/09/23