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March 2017 Water Report

The Monthly Water Report provides a summary of the status of Victoria's water resources and water supplies at the end of the reporting month. It is based on validated water resource information provided by Victoria's 19 Urban and Rural Water Corporations and the Bureau of Meteorology. Each month's report is published online the following month. For detailed, specific and up-to-date information, please contact the relevant Water Corporation or the Bureau of Meteorology. Links to these organisations are located within the Monthly Water Report.

For a weekly snapshot you can now download the Department's Weekly Water Report on the Water Register website.


During March, rainfall in Victoria was 12.3% below average, with the largest deficits recorded in parts of the Mallee, Gippsland and the Yarra Ranges. Above average rainfall was recorded across the south west and in pockets of northern Victoria.

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High stream flows were recorded in parts of south western and central Victoria at the end of March. Three sites recorded flows over 100% of the long term average. These sites, Yarra River at Millgrove, Merri River at Woodford and Glenelg River at Sandford, recorded flows above 140%, 139% and 116% of the long term average respectively.

Low flows continued to be recorded throughout the west of the state, with nine dry stations. West Gippsland also experienced low flows, with two sites recording between 10% to 19% of the long term average. Of the 20 flowing stations, all recorded flows higher than the historic March minimum.

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Storage levels

The total volume of water held in Victoria’s major storages decreased by 5.1% during March, ending the month at 68.5% capacity. Storage volumes decreased in all of the 16 monitored basins, with decreases ranging from 2.3% in the Maribyrnong system, to 15.6% in the Ovens system.

Victoria’s regional storage levels decreased by 5.6% to 69.1% of capacity during March. Melbourne’s storage levels decreased by 2.4% to 64.9% of capacity over the same period. Melbourne’s storages were 2.9% higher and regional storages were 35.7% higher than at the same time last year.

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At the end of the March quarter, the short term (<5 years) groundwater level trends were categorised as declining for six of the 14 Water Supply Protection Areas (WSPAs). Groundwater levels were categorised as stable over the short term in eight WSPAs. Over the long term (>10 years), groundwater level trends for nine WSPAs were categorised as stable, two as declining and three as rising.

Of the 40 Groundwater Management Areas (GMAs) in Victoria, groundwater levels were categorised in the short term as stable in 25 areas and declining in nine areas; three were categorised as rising in the short term. There was insufficient information (through lack of state observation bores) to determine a trend in the remaining three areas.

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Urban water restrictions

On 23 March, South Gippsland Water placed Korumburra on Stage 1 restrictions. This was due to dry conditions and falling dam levels. All other Victorian towns were subject to Permanent Water Saving Rules. This time last year there were 22 towns subject to water restrictions.

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Irrigation allocations

Allocations were increased during March for the Macalister Irrigation District, with a 5% increase in low-reliability water share allocation. All other systems remained unchanged with seasonal determinations at 100% high-reliability water share and a total of six systems with LRWS seasonal determinations allocated: Broken, Bullarook, Campaspe, Murray, Macalister Irrigation District and Werribee/Bacchus Marsh District.

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Restrictions on diversions 

At the end of March 2017, across Victoria, there were 76 unregulated streams subject to diversion restrictions, compared to 75 at the end of February. This time last year, there were 157 waterways subject to restrictions.

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Seasonal climate outlook

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) released its April to June rainfall outlook on 30 March 2017.  The outlook continues to predict a dry autumn for Victoria, with a 20-45% chance of exceeding median rainfall as we head into winter. Northern Victoria is predicted to be drier with less than a 20% chance of exceeding median rainfall over coming months.

The BoM released an ENSO Wrap-Up on 28 March 2017. It announced that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains in a neutral state, with a 50% chance of El Niño developing in 2017. Sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean have steadily increased since the beginning of the year, however, all indicators of ENSO remain within neutral levels. All international climate models surveyed by BoM indicate that the current steady warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean will likely continue over coming months. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has little influence on Australian climate through December to April.

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Water for the environment

This section of the Monthly Water Report contains monthly updates on environmental entitlements. Environmental use is reported quarterly. 

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