The Minister for Water has received an application from Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) to amend its Eildon-Goulburn Weir, River Murray, Campaspe and Loddon systems bulk entitlements under section 44 of the Water Act 1989. These changes are required to support the final audit and reconciliation of water recovery from the Connections Project and ensure the issue of entitlements does not impact other water users or the environment.

The purpose of the amendments are:

Goulburn System

  • Reduce the loss allowances to support the issuance of Melbourne’s share of the water recovery from Stage 1 of the Connections Project
  • Reflect the expiry of the Resource Manager
  • Remove references to the Goulburn Offset Accounts
  • Amend the Shepparton loss allowance in line with the recommendations from a review of the Goulburn System losses
  • Re-introduce the volume of Supply by Agreements that need to be supplied from the Goulburn system
  • Reflect on the future issuing of a specific volume of water shares for sale as part of the irrigators’ share
  • Set aside additional water recovery from the Connections Project for Traditional Owners.

Murray System

  • Reduce the loss allowances to support the issuance of Melbourne’s share of the water recovery from Stage 1 of the Connections Project
  • Remove references to the Murray Offset Accounts
  • Reflect the future issuing of a specific volume of water shares for sale as part of the irrigators’ share
  • Set aside additional water recovery from the Connections Project for Traditional Owners.

Campaspe System

  • Reflect the future issuing of a specific volume of water shares for sale as part of the irrigators’ share
  • Set aside additional water recovery from the Connections Project for Traditional Owners.

Loddon System

  • Reflect the future issuing of a specific volume of water shares for sale as part of the irrigators’ share
  • Set aside additional water recovery from the Connections Project for Traditional Owners.

Application overview:

GMW has applied to amend the following bulk entitlements:

  • Bulk Entitlement (Eildon-Goulburn Weir) Conversion Order 1995
  • Bulk Entitlement (River Murray) Conversion Order 1999
  • Bulk Entitlement (Campaspe System) Conversion Order 2000
  • Bulk Entitlement (Loddon System) Conversion Order 2005

Goulburn- Murray Water application letter (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Frequently Asked Questions

A bulk entitlement is a legal right to water granted by the Minister for Water under Part 4, Division 1 of the Water Act 1989 (the Act).

Bulk entitlements are legal instruments mainly held by water corporations that set out how much water the holder is entitled to take to supply its customers and the conditions around taking that water.

The GMW Connections Project is Australia’s largest irrigation modernisation project and the most significant infrastructure upgrade in northern Victoria’s 100-year history.

The project has now delivered works to achieve the long-term 429 gigalitres (GL) of water recovery for farms in Northern Victoria and the environment. Since then, the Project has been finalising its work scope and has exceeded its water recovery target.

It is a key part of Victoria’s contribution to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan contributing 10 % (279 GL long term average annual yield (LTAAY) water savings) of the total water recovery required. The majority of environmental water recovery is being provided to protect and improve Victoria’s waterway health to support fish, vegetation and water quality.

Before the project started, irrigation infrastructure in the region lost around 900 GL each year from leakage, seepage, evaporation and poor measurement.

To successfully deliver this complex project, we give equal consideration to the environment, cultural heritage, community, irrigators and a range of individual infrastructure delivery solutions.

The Victorian and Australian governments are funding this $2 billion-dollar project.

The proposed amendments will reduce loss allowances outlined in the Eildon-Goulburn Weir and River Murray bulk entitlements so that GMW can issue new entitlements to the Melbourne retail water corporations without impacting other entitlement holders’ rights or the rights of the environment. The amendments also reflect the future issuing of a specific volume of water shares for sale as part of the irrigators’ share and set aside additional water recovery from the project for Traditional Owners in the Goulburn, Murray, Campaspe and Loddon systems.

Other changes are required to remove references to the Goulburn and Murray offset accounts. The offset accounts have been closed because the GMW Connections Project has completed the modernisation works and offsets are no longer required to mitigate the potential reliability impacts to existing entitlement holders.

Finally, the amendment also includes changes to the Eildon-Goulburn Weir bulk entitlement to reflect the expiry of the Resource Manager. It also includes changes reintroducing the volume of supply by Agreements that need to be supplied from the Goulburn system and amending the Shepparton loss allowance in line with the recommendations from a review of the Goulburn system losses.

If we didn’t amend the entitlements then issuing new entitlements to the Melbourne retail water corporations would negatively impact other entitlement holders, including the environment, and therefore wouldn’t be possible under the law.

The GMW Connections Project is comprised of two stages, including Stage 1 and Stage 2 and is contracted to deliver a minimum of 429 GL LTAAY.

The water recovery being issued to the Melbourne retail water corporations through these bulk entitlement amendments is associated with Stage 1 of the GMW Connections Project. Stage 1 water recovery is being shared between irrigators, the environment and the Melbourne retail water corporations.

The environment received its share of the savings in June 2019 and irrigators in October 2021. This year, the Melbourne retail water corporations will receive their share and the additional uncommitted water recovery confirmed in the final audit will be distributed equally to the original partners in the project - irrigators, the environment (represented by the VEWH) and Melbourne retail water corporations.

The water recovery target for Stage 2 of the Connections Project is 204 GL LTAAY. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) received recovered water in water shares, which is achieved through a separate bulk entitlement amendment process.  For further information on the GMW Connections project, please refer to the website www.connectionsproject.com.au.

Next Steps

The Minister for Water will consider the application from Goulburn-Murray Water, considering the requirements of the Water Act 1989. Subject to the Minister for Water approval, the bulk entitlement amendments will come into effect when they are published in the Victorian Government Gazette.

More information and submissions

Further information on the application can be obtained from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or at: www.water.vic.gov.au/planning-and-entitlements/bulk-entitlements

Page last updated: 21/04/22