Introduction

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

This initiative will deliver 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 two others which address water sharing (the rules and levers for sharing water) and the Water Register (the technology platform that records water use and entitlements).

EC5 Expenditure to date

Program Title (EC5)

2020-21 Expenditure $’000

The evidence base for Victorian water: availability and knowledge

14,477

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 will continue to build our understanding of how climate change will affect water resources by investing in research on climate change and 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 Victorian Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Some of the key activities progressed in Year 1 of EC5 are:

  • Writing and designing the Victoria’s Water in a Changing Climate report, which was published in December 2020.  This report describes the findings of the research through the earlier part of the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative, and it forms a key reference document for many water resource planning activities across the Victorian water sector during much of the EC5 period.
  • Working closely with scientists and water resource managers, guidelines for assessing the impact of climate change on water availability were developed.  The guidelines were published in December 2020 and set out how Victorian water resource assessments should be done in a way that factors in climate change.  The guidelines provide a consistent basis for climate change impact assessments by DELWP and other Victorian agencies, including Victorian water corporations who use the guidelines as part of the development of their Urban Water Strategies.
  • Several research papers were published in scientific journals on  topics including climate change impacts on changing rainfall patterns and changing streamflow patterns.  This included a paper published in Science, one of the world’s leading scientific journals, on changes in streamflow patterns in Victoria.
  • A detailed stakeholder survey of research needs was conducted across the water sector.  The results of the survey were used to inform the design of the next phase of research through the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative.
  • Modelling and assessment of the hydrologic impact of changes in land uses, including a project that assessed how climate change is likely to influence farm dams impacts on the water cycle.

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, delivery of Water for Victoria actions and effective interstate water-sharing arrangements. The surface water analysis and models are fundamental to 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, and
  • equitable sharing of resources between consumptive, environmental and recreational users.
Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • 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 Commonwealth Water Act 2007) has been undertaken, resulting in Victoria successfully meeting compliance and legislative obligations for 2019/20 with the Murray Darling Basin.
  • Modelling for verifying reliability impact of water savings in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation district from the Goulburn-Murray Water Connections Project to enable irrigators' shares distribution.
  • Finalised the updated operating rules for the Barmah-Millewa Forest Environmental Water Allocation (BMFEWA). This is a key step towards formal completion of the BMFEWA Sustainable Diversion Limit ( SDL) adjustment project, one of the four Victorian-led operating rule change supply measure projects, contributing to the 605 Gigalitres SDL offset under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
  • Commenced analysis of trends in water use in Northern Victorian systems to boost transparency and inform discussions with key stakeholders regarding likely future trends and options for addressing these.
  • Climate change modelling for Northern Victorian systems including support to Urban Water Strategies being developed by water corporations, with consistent approach to climate change modelling for the assessment of future water availability in the Murray-Darling Basin.
  • Maintained and improved the Source modelling platform, developed and improved daily Source models, and led a community of practice for hydrological modelling in Victoria to deliver improved hydrological modelling capabilities.
  • Completed business requirements for a model management system and implemented cloud storage and version control for the Goulburn, Broken, Campaspe, Coliban and Loddon Source model and Goulburn Simulation REALM models, improving accessibility and auditability of the models.
  • Undertook stakeholder consultation to gather current state and business requirements for operational models to develop a pathway for operationalisation of Source planning models to leverage existing models and minimise duplication of effort.

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 Assessment Projects and Planning team provides ongoing technical expertise and the evidence base to support the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS) (in development). This includes support for the SWS 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.

Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • Providing the evidence-base for the Central and Gippsland Region SWS on changing water availability.
  • Aligning the findings of the LTWRA technical assessment about declines in water availability with environmental flow priorities to target efforts to restore water to the environmental water reserve.
  • Identifying opportunities to optimise use of passing flows and environmental water entitlements to provide environmental and shared benefits in rivers, including the Werribee, Maribyrnong, Barwon, Moorabool and Yarra.

Groundwater assessment and modelling 

The Groundwater Assessment and Modelling team is responsible for:

  • Reviewing the groundwater caps across Victoria and assessing the sustainable level of groundwater use in 75 per cent of systems.
  • 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 will continue 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 will also deliver on some of the Minister’s obligations under the Water Act 1989, Mineral 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).

Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • The groundwater sustainable yield project commenced. Deliverables included the development and approval of the sustainable yield project plan - including consultation with key stakeholders, agreement on the draft methodology for sustainable yield assessments, and preparation of the stakeholder consultation plan. A technical stakeholder working group has been appointed and expressions of interests for independent reviewers obtained.
  • 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 the groundwater management strategy, the Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy and the Central and Gippsland region Sustainable Water Strategy. Advice was also provided on Hazelwood Work Plan Variation, Alcoa mine rehabilitation, Batesford quarry and new Petroleum and Earth Resources regulations.
  • Refurbishment of State Observation Bores entailed seeking a contract service provider for a 4-year contract and works were completed on four out of the 24 groundwater bores.
  • In respect of the Groundwater (Border Agreement) Act 1985 the 2019-20 Annual Report was delivered and tabled at parliament. Other key outcomes were the reviews of the management prescriptions along the South Australian – Victorian border for Mallee region (Province 3) and the West Wimmera region (Province 2). Reporting of 2019/20 groundwater use in the Murray Darling Basin consistent with the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 requirements was completed.

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 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 will assist 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.

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. DELWP will work 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
Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • Regular monitoring and maintenance at 344 surface water sites
  • Regular monitoring and maintenance at 1387 groundwater sites
  • Regular water quality laboratory analysis for 152 water quality sites
  • All monitoring data collected and published on the Water Management Information System (www.data.water.vic.gov.au)
  • New 5-year groundwater monitoring and maintenance contract approved and signed
  • New software licence and website redevelopment contract approved and signed
  • 367 assets upgraded or replaced
  • Modelling for Docker Road at King River fish ladder completed
  • Remote camera pilot completed
  • 147 sites upgraded from 3G to 4G, in preparation of the 3G network being turned off in 2024

Water Accounting and Reporting 

The Water Accounting and Reporting (WAR) team is responsible for water accounting and reporting on water availability and use, and they are the business owner for Victorian Water Register (VWR) services.

WAR have been delegated 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, and
  • Apply water trading rules.

WAR is also responsible for:

  • producing the annual Victorian Water Account, 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 the rural water corporations to improve water register services to enhance the customer experience and reduce processing costs; and
  • Contributing to the development of the new water register
Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • All seasonal determinations completed in the Victorian Water Register within 4 hours of public announcements
  • 2019-20 (July 2020) EOY process completed, with 100 per cent of accounts opened with correct carryover balances on 2 July 2020.
  • 2019-20 Victorian Water Accounts produced and released by May 2021 (online offerings as well as written report)
  • Water register support provided to water corporations, public and internal customers within appropriate timeframes
  • Funds collection and distribution completed monthly
  • Water register services improvement meetings conducted with water corporations quarterly
  • Team involvement in development of the new water register as per Water Register IT team requirements

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 policy makers, water users and the public as a whole.

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

A new component includes delivery of a water insights library that will integrate existing water information sources to improve co-ordination and access to water information. The purpose of this work is to create an organised catalogue of DELWP’s water data and information that can be readily searched to use, share and join datasets to create insightful policy outcomes.

Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • 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 includes developing an animation on “what is surface water” and a video explaining the Victorian Water Accounts. Both will be released shortly.
  • Worked closely with the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria to deliver water lesson plans for Years 7 and 10 students and teachers. The lesson plans align with the Victorian curriculum and include DELWP’s in depth water data and new digital information products. These curriculum aligned resources for teachers encourage use of DELWPs water resource information. For more information, please visit https://www.gtav.asn.au/.
  • Progressed on scoping the water insights library that will integrate existing water information sources to improve co-ordination and access to water information. The purpose of this work is to create an organised catalogue of DELWP’s water data and information that can be readily searched to use, share and join datasets to create insightful policy outcomes

Page last updated: 16/09/21