Protecting and improving Victoria’s waterways

The Victorian government is investing a record $222 million over four years to protect and improve waterways and catchments.

Healthy waterways provide the essential building blocks for regional growth, liveability and prosperity. Waterway health management programs include (but are not limited to) release of environmental water flows, riparian improvement and protection, and protection of wetlands. Evidence-based decision-making and adaptive management underpin the effectiveness of this management.

Water for Victoria commits to improving the way we monitor our waterways and report back to communities. It recognises the need to evaluate the changes that result from management actions, including social and economic benefits

Improved evidence and reporting back to communities

Waterway monitoring and research efforts support adaptive management so that we can learn from our efforts and iteratively improve the way that waterways are managed using the best available evidence.

A recent review of monitoring and research approaches highlighted the need for a greater focus on collecting information to evaluate management interventions and track progress towards objectives.

This needs to be balanced with an ability to assess the broad scale condition of waterways as well as fill critical knowledge gaps. The focus of the revised approach is to get the mix right.

To that end, three general evidence types were defined to address program and policy needs. These are broadly categorised as surveillance monitoring, management intervention monitoring and strategic research.

Surveillance monitoring

Victoria pioneered broad scale surveillance monitoring approaches of waterways through the development of the Index of Stream Condition (ISC). Three ISC benchmark assessments have been undertaken (1999, 2004, 2010) that have provided valuable insights into the environmental condition of rivers and streams and informed investment in waterway management across Victoria.

An assessment of Victoria’s wetlands was undertaken in 2009/10, although this was limited in scope to ‘high value’ wetlands only. Subsequent wetland assessments will be refined to include a broader suite of wetland types as well as improved discrimination of threats to hydrology and connectivity.  Assessments for Victoria’s first Index of Estuary Condition are underway and due for reporting in 2020.

Victoria’s waterway condition surveillance programs will continue, although the frequency of assessments will be reduced from every 5-6 to every 12 years. The assessment of streams, estuaries and wetlands will be undertaken every 4 years on a rotating basis.

Additional surveillance monitoring programs have been developed to focus on key assets. The Native Fish Report Card will report annually on the condition of recreational and non-recreational threatened native fish at 10 priority waterways. Surveillance monitoring has also been bolstered at Victoria’s 12 Ramsar sites, where ecological character will be regularly assessed to ensure we meet our international obligations.

Stream Condition Publications


An Index of Stream Condition: Field Manual. (PDF, 204.5 KB)

An Index of Stream Condition: Manual for Catchment Managers. (PDF, 713.9 KB)

An Index of Stream Condition: Reference Manual. (PDF, 2.4 MB)


Index of Stream Condition: The Second Benchmark of Victorian River Condition. (PDF, 8.1 MB)

Index of Stream Condition: The Second Benchmark of Victorian River Condition – Scoring Factsheets. (PDF, 707.3 KB)


The Third Benchmark of Victorian River Condition.

ISC 2010 Aquatic Life Factsheet. (PDF, 206.5 KB)

ISC 2010 Hydrology Factsheet. (PDF, 241.9 KB)

ISC 2010 Physical Form Factsheet. (PDF, 369.2 KB)

ISC 2010 Streamside Zone Factsheet. (PDF, 717.1 KB)

ISC 2010 Water Quality Factsheet. (PDF, 327.4 KB)

ISC 2010 Scoring Factsheet. (PDF, 69.9 KB)

Management Intervention Monitoring

Management intervention monitoring helps to evaluate the effectiveness of management activities, by addressing questions such as: Did our management actions achieve the desired change in the environment? Are we applying the appropriate amount or type of management effort to achieve the desired environmental change?  Our ability to answer these types of questions, and thus demonstrate progress towards management objectives, is a priority identified in Water for Victoria.

A suite of programs has been established to address this need.  Monitoring efforts are now underway across many of the state’s rivers and wetlands to evaluate the effectiveness of common management activities. In many cases these programs link to longer term surveillance monitoring efforts. Examples include:

Programs are also underway to evaluate various management actions at Victoria’s Ramsar sites, and fish responses to the addition of woody habitat in rivers.

Strategic Research

Strategic research investigates assumptions underpinning the relationships between waterway management and environmental outcomes. It can also identify emerging threats to aquatic environments and improve our understanding of the underlying processes that influence waterway values.

The Victorian Government has established an Aquatic Ecology Research Hub which aims to improve connection, sharing and collaboration among DELWP, the VEWH and CMAs when identifying strategic research needs. This approach also aims to improve the dissemination of research findings.

Learn more

Page last updated: 02/08/22