The Water Act 1989 requires a long-term water resource assessment (LTWRA) every 15 years to determine whether water availability has declined or if waterway health has deteriorated for reasons related to changes in flow.

Sharing our water

Water is limited, so under the Act, the Minister for Water manages how surface water (water that flows along our waterways and into and out of dams and reservoirs) and groundwater (water stored underground in aquifers) is shared between users.

Water-sharing arrangements need to be kept up-to-date. The LTWRA is a formal process to consider whether:

  • A long-term reduction in water availability needs to be shared more equitably between consumptive users and the environment.
    Water-sharing arrangements need to respond to a deterioration in waterway health related to change in flow.

If a review of water-sharing arrangements is needed, this may be done as part of the development of a new Sustainable Water Strategy. Sustainable water strategies (SWSs) identify and manage threats to the future supply and quantity of a region’s water resources, as well as identifying means to improve waterway health. These strategies are used to make decisions about how water is shared between consumptive users (people and industry) and the environment.

Long-term water resource assessment process

The assessment for southern Victoria started in August 2018. The LTWRA for northern Victoria will commence in 2025 and align with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan review scheduled for 2026.

Flow chat displaying the timeline of the LTWRA: August 2019, technical assessment made; Sep-Nov 2019, Public provide feedback on draft assessment, EPA conducts independent review of data methods and findings; Early 2020, Final assessment based on public feedback and EPA review; Future, Determine need for a review of sharing arrangements in each basin assessed.

Technical Assessment

The LTWRA starts with a technical assessment to:

  • Review water availability in each river basin and aquifer.
  • In cases of long-term declines, identify if the decline has been shared equally between consumptive uses and the environment.
  • Determine if waterway health has deteriorated due to changes in flow.

The technical assessment is undertaken by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) in collaboration with southern Victoria’s water corporations and catchment management authorities.

Public consultation and EPA review

The draft technical assessment for southern Victoria is now available for public consultation.

The draft is also being reviewed by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The EPA will review the methodology, check whether the data used were the best available, and determine whether the conclusions reached are supported by the methodology and the data.

The technical assessment will be finalised after feedback from the EPA and the community has been considered.

After the technical assessment is finalised, the need for a review of water-sharing arrangements in particular basins will be decided. The arrangements will be reviewed in basins where there has been a long-term decline in water availability and where the decline has not been shared equally between consumptive uses and the environment, and/or waterway health has deteriorated due to changes in flow.

Any review following the long-term water resource assessment may be undertaken as part of the development of a SWS. This will ensure that any actions will consider both past findings and future water challenges.

The SWS will use an open and consultative process to determine if and how to restore the balance between consumptive water users and the environment.

Actions that could be considered as part of the review include increasing water supplies, such as increased use of alternative water supplies, investment in improved water use efficiencies and opportunities for achieving shared benefits.

As a last resort, changes to the water-sharing arrangements for existing entitlements in a given area may be needed.

Both the technical feasibility, coupled with community values, will determine the appropriateness of all options.

We invite you to go online to engage.vic.gov.au to provide us with your feedback on the draft technical assessment for southern Victoria. ‘Open House’ events are being held across southern Victoria in October 2019. Everyone is welcome to drop-in to talk about the draft assessment, Sustainable Water Strategies and other water-related projects.

The LTWRA is another step in a journey going back decades to improve the sharing of available water, to ensure security of water supply for consumptive uses and water for the environment to keep our waterways healthy.

The 2004 Victorian Government policy document Our Water, Our Future (PDF, 9.3 MB), the need for governments to act if a long-term reduction in the water resources was not shared equitably between consumptive uses and the environment, or to change water sharing arrangements if there was a discernible trend in river health. Accordingly, it included a requirement to undertake a LTWRA every 15 years.

In 2005 the Water Act 1989 was amended to include the LTWRA. It also started the clock on the 15-year period at the end of which the LTWRA would be completed.

Water for Victoria is the government’s current strategic plan for managing water resources, and it recommitted to starting the LTWRA process in southern Victoria.  It also recognised the major changes in the north of the state as part of the Basin Plan. The LTWRA in northern Victoria – in the Murray-Darling Basin – will start in 2025, so it is completed before the Basin Plan is reviewed in 2026.

Page last updated: 30/09/19