On this page:

Your Waterways, Your Say

Rivers, wetlands, estuaries, and their floodplains are the lifeblood of many Victorian towns and communities. Our waterways run from cool mountain streams in alpine areas to popular estuaries across the coast. Waterways underpin the wellbeing and productivity of individuals, communities, and regional economies. It is important that we care for them.

We are developing a new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy. It will guide how we manage Victorian waterways into the future.

We invited early feedback from the Victorian community to inform the new strategy in August and September 2023. Thank you to those who provided feedback. The consultation is now closed, and your feedback is being reviewed and analysed. Your feedback will help to shape the development of the new draft strategy.

The purpose of the discussion starter consultation was to:

  • Inform the community there will be new strategy and why it is needed
  • Invite input into a new vision for the future of our waterways, which will help us develop the new strategy
  • Invite early feedback on what the new strategy needs to achieve.

To find out more or participate in future consultation rounds, visit Engage Victoria.

Developing the new strategy

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 floodplains —collectively called waterways—over an 8-year period.

The 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 our changing population and climate conditions.

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
Above: Two children fishing at Barwon (Parwan) Heads Estuary

The existing Strategy provides guidance on who manages what part of Victoria's waterways and guides how decisions are made about where money is invested to help care for them. The Strategy promoted a program of activities for improving waterways.

It guided 10 regional-level waterway strategies across the state. Victoria's water management agencies oversee these strategies.

Many different departments, agencies, organisations and individuals play a role in caring for waterways across Victoria.

Victorians value their waterways

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%)
  • that healthy waterways are important for continued community needs (84%) 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.

The new Strategy will link with the Victorian Government’s commitments to self-determination for Traditional Owners, including Water is Life – Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap. The Strategy will play an important role in increasing Traditional Owner roles and decision-making in the management of waterways, delivering benefits for all Victorians.

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.

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.

Considerations for the new strategy may include:

  • How we can continue to support the health of Victoria’s waterways
  • How we will adapt to climate change.
  • An increase in decision-making for Traditional Owners in waterway management.
  • Helping communities to care for waterways.
  • Guiding the development of regional waterway strategies.
  • Considering any other areas or opportunities that come from your feedback.

An Independent Review of the 2013 strategy was completed in 2021. Visit evaluation and reporting for an update.

The Independent Review will inform the development of the new strategy.

Social research, My Victorian Waterway Survey, was conducted in 2022 to understand better 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.

The Department and Catchment Management Authorities produce progress reports for the Victorian Waterway Management Program to meet the needs of various stakeholders.

Visit evaluation of the Victorian Waterway Management Program

Project timeline

  1. 2023: Exploring issues and opportunities

    Prepare discussion starter
    Public and stakeholder consultation to explore issues and opportunities for the new strategy

  2. 2023-2024: Policy development and drafting the strategy

    Collaborate with project partners and stakeholders on policy development
    Prepare draft strategy

  3. 2024-2025: Finalising the strategy

    Public consultation on the draft strategy
    Prepare final strategy
    Government approvals and public release

Victorian Waterway Management Strategy 2013

The 2013 Strategy provides a detailed policy for managing Victoria's waterways over an 8-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.

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).

An independent review of the 2013 Strategy has been completed as part of developing the new Strategy.

Part 1: Strategy background

Chapter 1: About the Strategy
Chapter 2:  Introduction
Read Victorian Waterway Management Strategy: Part 1 strategy background  (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Part 2: Strategy fundamentals

Chapter 3 Strategy approach
Chapter 4 Regional waterway management
Chapter 5 Community participation
Chapter 6 Victorian Traditional Owner involvement in waterway management

Read Victorian Waterway Management Strategy: Part 2 strategy approach (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Part 3: Management issues

Chapter 7 Recreational use of waterways
Chapter 8 Environmental water management
Chapter 9 Riparian Management
Chapter 10 Water quality
Chapter 11 The river channel
Chapter 12 Wetlands
Chapter 13 Estuaries
Chapter 14 Waterways in urban areas
Chapter 15 Extreme events of flood and bushfire
Chapter 16 Invasive species management in waterways

Read Victorian Waterway Management Strategy: Part 3 management issues (PDF, 4.2 MB)

Part 4: Management arrangements

Chapter 17 Adaptive management
Chapter 18 Management arrangements

Read Victorian Waterway Management Strategy: Part 4 management arrangements (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Page last updated: 02/10/23