The existing Victorian Waterway Management Strategy was released in 2013, providing a detailed policy framework for managing the health of Victoria's rivers, wetlands, estuaries and their floodplains (referred to collectively as ‘waterways’) over an eight-year period.

This eight-year Strategy has reached the end of its lifespan. A new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy (the new Strategy) is needed to ensure we have strong policies in place for managing Victoria’s waterways, particularly in the face of climate change and population growth. A key focus of the new Strategy will be identifying pathways to increase Traditional Owner self-determination and decision-making in waterway management.

kids holding fish near barwon river

Two children fishing at Barwon (Parwan) Heads Estuary

Developing the new strategy

Waterways are important natural assets that support diverse populations of plants and animals. Additionally, waterways play a vital role in the physical and mental wellbeing of people and communities. Good waterway condition provides the essential building blocks for liveability and prosperity. Many different departments, agencies, organisations and individuals play a role in caring for waterways and water landscapes across Victoria.

The existing 2013 Strategy sets out the Victorian Government’s policies and frameworks for the management of waterways. This includes policies on regional decision-making, investment, roles and responsibilities of various management organisations and management of key issues impacting waterways. Many of these policies are then implemented regionally by the waterway managers designated under the Water Act 1989 (nine catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water) in collaboration with Traditional Owners and other important partners.

As part of the development of the new Strategy, a new set of updated policies and frameworks will be developed to guide the management of Victoria’s waterways. These policies will need to respond to contemporary issues and challenges facing our waterways.

Victorians value their waterways

Rivers, wetlands, estuaries and their floodplains are the lifeblood of many Victorian towns and communities. From cool mountain streams in alpine areas to popular estuaries along the coast - waterways underpin the well-being and productivity of individuals, communities and regional economies.

The 2022 My Victorian Waterway Survey of 6,240 Victorians found that waterways are visited every day for a variety of reasons, such as relaxation and peace, recreation and fun, commercial and economic activities, a space for exercise, a place to engage with nature, experience personal mental health benefits, and for family and social connections.

Underpinning the myriad of reasons to visit and use our waterways, is the important role that they play for individuals, families, and communities. Almost all respondents said that waterways nurture their own wellbeing (94%), and that healthy waterways are important for continued community needs (84%) and for use by future generations (83%). Additional findings from this study will be used to inform the new Strategy.

For countless generations, Traditional Owners have cared for Country and waterways, maintaining the health and flow of water and sustaining connections to place, each other, animals, ancestors, culture, and Country.

Through the Water is Life – Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap, the Victorian Government has committed to enabling a cultural water paradigm shift and supporting Traditional Owners self-determination in water and waterway management. The new Strategy will play a role in delivering this by increasing Traditional Owner roles and resources for the management of waterways.

Rivers, estuaries and wetlands are important natural assets that support diverse populations of animals and plants.

Waterways and surrounding riparian land provide habitat for thousands of species of fish, insects, birds, mammals, and plants – all dependent on healthy, thriving waterways.

Waterways and floodplains play a part in the movement and cycling of sediment and nutrients and underpin the rich agricultural soils across the state. Continuing to care for our water environments and biodiversity, particularly while adapting to the impacts of climate change, is a key outcome of the new Strategy.

The Strategy will be developed in close collaboration with Traditional Owners, catchment management authorities and other project partners, with input from key stakeholder groups and the broader Victorian community.

A community consultation process will take place to explore opportunities and improve our understanding of the key challenges our waterways face. A new community vision will be developed to guide the way our waterways are managed.

The scope of the new Strategy will be refined during 2022/23. While this scoping work is not yet complete, there are some known focus areas that will need to be included:

  • A continued focus on improving the health of Victoria's rivers, wetlands, estuaries and their floodplains, including how we will adapt to climate change.
  • Guidance for the development of regional waterway strategies, which are required under the Water Act 1989. See Regional Waterway Management for more information.
  • Increasing Traditional Owner roles and resources for the management of water landscapes
  • Addressing priority policy focus areas identified in the Independent Review of the existing 2013 Victorian Waterway Management Strategy.
  • Any other focus areas, opportunities, challenges or emerging themes that are identified.

The development of the new Strategy will officially commence in 2023. More information will be provided throughout 2022/2023.

new waterway strategy timeline

An Independent Review of the 2013 Strategy was completed in 2021 (see below for more information). The Independent Review will inform the development of the new Strategy.

Social research (titled My Victorian Waterway Survey) was conducted in 2022 to better understand community values, aspirations and concerns in relation to waterway management and to deliver on Action 5.3 of the 2013 Strategy. This social research will inform the development of the new Strategy.

We will be working closely with a range of key stakeholder groups and we will invite input from the broader Victorian community through the formal public consultation processes.

If you’d like to know more or be added to our list to receive project updates, please get in touch via

Information will be regularly uploaded to this project webpage.

In 2021, an independent review of the existing Victorian Waterway Management Strategy (the 2013 Strategy) was completed, in accordance with Action 17.11 of the 2013 Strategy.

The independent review is a key activity in the evaluation and reporting stage of the 2013 Strategy's eight-year adaptive management approach.

The main purposes of the review were to:

  • provide a high-level evaluation of the 2013 Strategy, including what went well, the appropriateness of the 2013 Strategy, and any challenges with implementation
  • appraise the success, strengths and weaknesses of the 2013 Strategy as a policy framework for the management of waterways and
  • identify key areas for improvement for the new Strategy based on the learnings from the current 2013 Strategy.

The independent review has helped us understand the key strengths, limitations and lessons learnt from the 2013 Strategy. This is a key foundational piece for the development of the new Strategy.

The independent review was conducted by RM Consulting Group and took place between November 2020 and May 2021, towards the end of the eight-year cycle of the 2013 Strategy. The review was guided by an independent expert panel, comprised of industry experts with significant scientific and policy expertise in waterway management Dr Tamara Boyd, Dr Sandra Brizga, Professor Barry Hart and Professor Ian Rutherfurd.

Read the review:

The 2013 Strategy provides a detailed policy for managing Victoria's waterways over an eight-year period. The 2013 Strategy aims to maintain or improve the condition of our waterways so they can support environmental, social, cultural and economic values that are important to communities. It provides direction for regional decision-making, investment and management issues for waterways, as well as the roles and responsibilities of management agencies (see Regional Waterway Management for more information).

Aspirational targets are included in the 2013 Strategy for long-term resource condition outcomes (to be achieved in 8+ years) and management outcomes (to be achieved in 1–8 years). Progress against these targets can be read at the Evaluation and Reporting page. An independent review of the 2013 Strategy has been completed as part of the development of the new Strategy.

Read an overview of the 2013 Victorian Waterway Management Strategy

Read the 2013 Victorian Waterway Management Strategy

Page last updated: 08/02/23