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What is Victoria's water grid?

The water grid works much like our road network, connecting sources such as dams, reservoirs, irrigation districts and the desalination plant via infrastructure including pipes and pumps, and natural elements like rivers.

Enhancing Victoria's water grid video

The water grid includes:

  • the capture, production and storage infrastructure (such as dams, reservoirs, weirs, groundwater extraction locations and the Victorian Desalination Project)
  • the delivery infrastructure (such as channels, pipes, pumps and the waterways used to deliver water)
  • the arrangements by which water can be purchased and sold through the water markets and allocated through the water entitlement framework.

What is the water grid’s program of work?

Image of a flow chart showing what work the water grid is doing in Victoria.

View a larger version of the image.


Maximise community benefit from a connected grid that contributes to water affordability and underpins water security.

Forward view of resources as part of the Water Grid Biennial Statement

Develop a suite of data and information about state-wide trends, to provide assurance we are prepared for a future with less water.

Completed: Development of the forward view methodology.

Ongoing: Produce forward view.

Stress testing the water grid as part of the Water Sector Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan

Develop an understanding of the impact of extreme shocks to the water grid and what steps we need to take to build resilience into the system.

Completed: Stress test of the south central Victorian water grid.

Ongoing: Stress test of the Victorian water grid.

Sharing water effectively as part of the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy

Making sure the arrangement and rules that govern all parties involved in water security, understand and encourage whole-of-system optimisation of the grid at the lowest economic cost.

Ongoing: Sharing water effectively

Strategic grid augmentation plan as part of the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy

Making sure an agreed upon process for making sound decisions and about augmenting the grid, including to develop a portfolio of potential augmentation options.

Ongoing: Strategic grid augmentation plan.

How does the grid work?

Victoria’s water grid is among the states most important infrastructure. More specifically the water grid includes:

  • The capture production and storage infrastructure such as dams, reservoirs, groundwater extraction locations and the Victorian desalination project.
  • The major delivery infrastructure such as channels, pipes pumps, and the waterways used to deliver water.
  • The arrangements by which water can be purchased and sold through the water markets a water entitlement framework.

You can further explore the characteristics of the water grid by visiting the dashboard.

What challenges does Victoria's water supply face?

The grid helps tackle some of our water resource challenges by building resilience in the connected system for communities and the environment.

Protecting the environment from negative impacts of water extraction is a high priority for the Victorian Government.

Communities recognise that the rivers and creeks which form a high proportion of the state's grid are not simply carriers of water to cities, towns and rural communities. Victoria's rivers, creeks are rich ecosystems which provide habitat for, and help sustain, a wide variety of flora and fauna species.

Our waterways range in condition from near natural to highly modified and objectives for restoring waterways aim to protect and build on their current condition. In protecting the health of our waterways, we enhance other community values.

Climate change and urbanisation are intensifying and making the task of delivering cultural, ecological and recreational values more challenging. Communities want more ecological healthy waterways and consideration of:

  • Aboriginal values and objectives for water through water planning, increased participation and supporting access to water for economic, cultural, spiritual and social purposes.
  • Collaborating with Traditional Owners in water planning and management is an aspect of maintaining access to Country and its resources.
  • Active and passive recreational opportunities such as water for canoeing, and sites for picnicking and contemplating the beauty and aesthetics of waterways and nature.
  • The sustainable use of water for consumptive purposes in cities, towns and on farms.

Bushfires are a recurring threat to the Victorian landscape. The Black Sunday fires in February 2009 directly affected almost 430,000 hectares of land, including 70 national parks and reserves and more than 3,350 agricultural facilities. In Victoria's south-central region, these fires affected about 30% of Melbourne's water supply catchments in some capacity.

In 2019, bushfires impacted part of the Thomson catchment. Tragically, in 2020 much of East Gippsland suffered major devastation from bushfires with 110 properties destroyed. The fires burnt through nearly 1 million hectares.

A hotter and drier climate is the most significant driver of diminishing streamflows and water availability. Temperatures have risen in Victoria since the 1970s while streamflows have been the lowest on record over the past 20 years.

Despite relatively wet conditions in late 2019 and early 2020, the latest data suggests this is a temporary reprieve. The data shows the dry conditions experienced throughout much of the previous decade will return and may intensify in some parts of Victoria, resulting in long-term average streamflow reductions of 15% to 50% by 2065.

Climate change will also bring more extreme weather events including droughts, floods and heatwaves. These can increase human and environmental demand for water, impact productivity, health and threaten infrastructure.

Victoria's first long-term water resource assessment covered southern Victoria. It found long-term surface water availability had declined by up to 21%. The main cause of declines in surface water availability is drier conditions. Upstream interception of water for storage in domestic and stuck dams and plantations may also be contributing to the decline in surface water availability in some basins.

The decline in water availability has impacted the environment industry and other water users. Water availability for consumptive uses by people and industry has declined in most of southern Victoria with declines varying from 1% to 13%. Water availability for the environment has declined in all basins except for the Otway Coast. The declines vary from 4% to 28%. This means there is less water for all uses going into the future. We must plan accordingly.

Adapting to the impacts of climate change and managing current and future risks is critical to building resilience in our communities, cities towns, and farms and securing a healthy and prosperous future for all Victorians.

The distribution of the state’s population is important. It influences the best places to locate new sources of water. Growth is not occurring uniformly throughout the state. Some areas are growing rapidly, other areas have softer to flatlined growth. Such variability means increases in water demands are also variable.

Much of the increase is a result of the growth within and around metropolitan Melbourne, Wodonga and Bendigo are also growing at slightly higher rates than the rest of regional Victoria.

A number of towns that are peri-urban centres will play a role in accommodating growth. This includes towns such as:

  • Warragul
  • Drouin
  • Bacchus Marsh
  • Torquay
  • Jan Juc
  • Gisborne
  • Kyneton.

Strategies will need to be developed for the required infrastructure to keep pace with this growth. Growth at this scale invariably means greater demand for water, increasing pressure on the state's existing grid assets to supply communities. This pressure is somewhat alleviated by the transition to higher density living.

Urbanisation of waterways increases pressures on our rivers and the health of our ecosystems.

You can further explore the challenges on the dashboard.

How is the grid helping to address urban water challenges?

There’s a number of ways the grid can tackle our urban water challenges, we’re working with industries and community partners to develop a strategic augmentation plan to make sure water is available when needed.

Explore the different pressures and augmentation plans around Victoria on the dashboard.

How is the grid helping to address rural water challenges?

The way we use and deliver water for irrigation is changing and so is the amount of water available. The grid can provide infrastructure that may help rural communities adapt to changing needs.


Total water availability

The impacts of climate change may drier future with less rainfall and lower inflows into our storages to support water allocations for all water users including irrigators.

Supplying and delivering water

Getting water to where and when it is needed is becoming more difficult in some of our major river systems with different supply points becoming less reliable and reductions in capacity in some areas.

Changes in demand for water

With less reliable rainfall and changing industry demands where and when people need water for agriculture and in rural communities is changing.

Accessing available water

With a drying climate, it is more important than ever that rural users understand how to access and make the most out of their water, including how to manage risk by buying, selling or holding water.

Potential solutions

Modernisation of existing infrastructure

Investments in existing infrastructure to reduce losses, including seepage and evaporation losses, and ensure water delivery is as efficient and reliable as possible.

Infrastructure and alternative water

New pipes or infrastructure to increase the volume of water supplied, and access to all available water sources can improve water security, such as utilising recycled water for irrigation in the Werribee irrigation district.

On-farm efficiency

Improving on-farm water efficiency enables farmers to make the most out of available water while providing benefits to the Victorian community.

Effective water markets

Effective water markets provide rural water users the certainty and flexibility to manage how they use their water. Tools like carryover and trade are important for many rural users in getting the most out of the available water.

Learn more about the unique challenges and potential solutions for declared rural systems in Victoria on the dashboard.

How does the grid support Traditional Owner, environmental and recreational values?

By working with Traditional Owners, industries and community partners the grid can help restore our waterway’s ecological health.

This will enhance the social, cultural, recreational and environmental values important to Victorians. Explore the work being done to benefit our waterways and communities.

Discover the work being done to benefit our waterways and communities on the dashboard.

Page last updated: 08/09/23