Robust water entitlement and water resource planning frameworks give entitlement holders certainty around their legal rights and obligations and the flexibility to manage their own risks so they can make informed decisions about how they use water.
Image credit, North East CMA

Our current projects are focussed on long-term planning for the State’s water shares. We are improving water resource information for planning and decision-making purposes and providing clearer information about water resources to the community. Long term planning is also being helped by enhancements to water resource assessments of surface and groundwater.

Doing things better with our monitoring and information

Victoria’s efficient and coordinated water monitoring is only possible because of our unique Regional Water Monitoring Partnership with water corporations, CMAs, local councils and others. Water monitoring was carried out at 863 surface water gauges and 1465 groundwater bores across the state in 2017. This allows us to track both how much water is available and the quality of that water.

Improvements are being made to our water information sharing products including the Weekly and Monthly Water Reports. Updates to the Water in Your Region web application went live in May 2017.

Soon we will also be able to publish near real-time water data. The project is made possible by the increase in automated
and telemetered data and will mean partners and the public can access water data that’s only one hour old. By comparison
the current lag time is up to three months. More recent and accurate data will support better water modelling and decision making, and provide almost immediate information to community members about what is happening now.

Thank you to everyone who completed our survey around water information usage: we received more than 200 responses. Your feedback is helping us tailor water information to your needs and will be considered in future enhancements and product development.

Image courtesy South East Water

Workers in high visibility shirts sitting in front of multiple networking monitors

Taking up technology, improving assets, working together

Surface water and groundwater monitoring across the state has been improved with upgrades to the technology we use and refurbishment of our assets.

Our knowledge of groundwater was greatly enhanced this year through the deployment of telemetered sensors at approximately 250 groundwater bores in addition to the existing 500 telemetered surface water monitoring sites. Telemetry involves remote sensors transmitting information back to central databases without the need to visit the monitoring sites. The sensors are cost effective, robust and transportable. They have improved our knowledge of groundwater levels by collecting data daily as opposed to the four times per year we achieved previously. The increased frequency of data will help us understand more about how our groundwater systems respond to change and will improve our groundwater modelling capacity.

Other adaptive monitoring approaches implemented in 2017 include the deployment of nine new highly sensitive ‘acoustic doppler’ water measurement devices across the state. The portable devices accurately monitor water flow and greatly improve the safety of field staff monitoring river flows during high flow periods. We can now deploy 20 portable automated loggers which improves our ability to capture water levels during floods. They can be deployed at short notice in flood situations or can monitor specific issues. The loggers monitor water levels and a range of water quality parameters.

Seven bores were refurbished as part of our management of long-term assets. The bores are part of our State Observation Bore Network in the Latrobe Group Aquifer of Gippsland. The aging bores have had their lives extended by 50-100 years, are now safer and provide more accurate data. They will continue to provide information about groundwater levels in this region.

Next we will be focusing on growing our water monitoring partnership to work more inclusively with local government and potentially include groundwater monitoring into a combined surface and ground water monitoring partnership.

We are also replacing decaying control structures (weirs) around our flow monitoring sites to improve
accuracy, cost effectiveness, and to provide fish passage over the weirs for migratory native fish species.

Next Steps

We are improving our current systems and tools to provide clear and transparent information about the condition and use of Victoria’s water resources. This includes continuing to investigate opportunities to complement our extensive online public database - the Water Measurement Information System - with data notification, analysis, or reporting.

Long Term Assessments and Sustainable Strategies

Our adaptive and robust water planning framework is designed to respond to the challenges ahead. In 2017, we have been working on aligning our sustainable water strategies processes with the long-term water resource assessment (LTWRA) processes. The introduction of the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 into Parliament was the first step in align these two processes.

The LTWRAs are a key tool to monitor the state of Victoria’s water resources and determine whether long term water availability has changed and, if so, whether there has been a disproportionate impact on consumers or the environment. The assessments may determine that waterway health has declined for flow-related reasons. The first water resource assessment will begin in August 2018.

The Water Act 1989 requires that our sustainable water strategies are reviewed at least every 10 years. These strategies are how we identify and manage regional threats to the supply and quality of water resources. Four regional sustainable water strategies covering the state were produced between 2006 and 2011. We published a stocktake of progress in implementing actions of all four strategies in 2018.

Building on the stocktake, we are reviewing the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy and the 5 yearly assessments. In 2018, public consultation on the draft Central Region report will begin while reviews of the Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy and Western Region Sustainable Water Strategy will also start.

These reviews and assessments will build an understanding of the success of these strategies and inform the development of a new strategy process for our regions. We will continue to work closely with water corporations, CMAs, entitlement holders, Traditional Owners, environmental stakeholders and the community to ensure our planning framework is responding to changes and challenges.