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The Latrobe River originates on the Mount Baw Baw Plateau and flows into Lake Wellington, the westernmost point of the Gippsland Lakes.

Environmental water is supplied to the Latrobe River from Blue Rock Reservoir on the Tanjil River. The reservoir also supplies water for other entitlement holders including electricity generators in the Latrobe Valley.

The Latrobe River from Rosedale to the Thomson River confluence (reach 5) is the priority for environmental watering because it contains endangered plant communities that have good potential for recovery.

Storage manager
Environmental water holder

Environmental watering objectives in the Latrobe River

Fish icon
Improve habitat for native fish including black bream and estuary perch
Landscape icon
Form in-stream bars to help stabilise the structure and condition of the river channel, helping reduce the load of sediment and nutrients flowing into the Gippsland Lakes
Plant icon
Establish native plants on bars and lower parts of the banks to stabilise the river channel

System map

Latrobe River and Wetland System
Grey river reaches have been included for context. The numbered reaches indicate where relevant environmental flow studies have been undertaken. Coloured reaches can receive environmental water.

Environmental values

The upper Latrobe River is relatively intact and contains some continuous stands of river red gums and a tall shrub layer. The banks along the lower reaches support stands of swamp scrub, an endangered vegetation type that is characterised by swamp paperbark and tea tree. Mature river red gums grow adjacent to the lower Latrobe wetlands and provide nesting habitat for sea eagles and other birds of prey that hunt in the wetlands. The Latrobe River contains native estuarine and freshwater fish species including black bream, Australian bass, Australian grayling and short- and long-finned eel.

The lower Latrobe River flows through the Latrobe Valley and is very degraded due to historic river management practices. Most snags have been removed from the river and many sections have been artificially straightened. These actions have reduced much of the habitat on which aquatic plants and animals depend.

Social, cultural and economic values

Despite the recent closure of Hazelwood Power Station, the Latrobe Valley remains central to Victoria's energy industry, and water from the Latrobe River is essential for electricity generation. The lower Latrobe River is commercially fished for eel and carp. It also contains black bream and estuary perch, which are favoured by recreational fishers. The waterways in the Latrobe system hold significance for Traditional Owners. Waterways and wetlands in the region contain important ceremonial places and for thousands of years the Latrobe River provided resources such as food and medicines to the Gunaikurnai people. Many of the region's wetlands are popular with walkers, birdwatchers and hunters.

Conditions mid-2017

Unregulated flows associated with above-average rainfall in winter and spring 2016 met the environmental targets for low flows and freshes between July and October. Simultaneous high flows in the Thomson River and upper Latrobe River caused minor flooding in the lower Latrobe River in July 2016. High inflows to Blue Rock Reservoir meant that the maximum environmental allocation of 18,737 ML was reached in August. This meant the West Gippsland CMA was in a good position to deliver environmental water for the remainder of the year.

Summer and autumn 2017 had below-average rainfall. Summer low flows were below the recommended environmental flow requirements and freshes were infrequent. A planned environmental flow release from Blue Rock Reservoir to relieve environmental stress associated with unnaturally low flows in February was cancelled because of concern that increased flows would flush poor-quality water into the Tanjil River and compromise the local town supply. This is a good example of the challenges of managing environmental water deliveries to rivers that are used for multiple purposes (such as water supply, industry and recreation).

An autumn fresh of 1,300 ML/day was delivered in April and May 2017. The release was coordinated with releases in the Macalister and Thomson rivers to create a flow that was large enough to flush the salt wedge that forms in the lower Latrobe River each summer.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Latrobe River

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Spring/summer freshes (1,300 ML/day for 2–4 days in September–February)

  • Improve vegetation diversity, condition and abundance along lower banks and increase recruitment of in-stream vegetation

Autumn/winter freshes (1,300 ML/day for 2–4 days in March–August)

Winter/spring low flows (690–1,500 ML/day from June–November)

  • From in-stream bars (elevated deposits of sediment and gravel in the river channel)

Summer/autumn low flows (up to 690 ML/day from December–May)

  • Provide in-stream habitat for aquatic biota (especially waterbugs, fish and vegetation)

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, West Gippsland CMA considered and assessed the risks of environmental watering and identified mitigation strategies. Program partners continually reassess risks and mitigation actions throughout the water year.


Waterway managers meet communities on environmental watering regionally, although other program partners also play a role.

In each region of Victoria, community engagement on environmental watering happens when environmental watering objectives and priorities are scoped (long term and annually), when delivering environmental water, and when reporting on environmental watering results.

In the West Gippsland region communities are involved in decisions about the Thomson and Macalister river systems and the Lower Latrobe wetlands. The community is engaged informally and through the Macalister river Project Advisory Group.

Who is engaged and how

Recreational users

A representative of VRFish sits on the Macalister river Project Advisory Group.

West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority engages with Field & Game Australia when developing the Lower Latrobe wetlands seasonal watering proposal (annual scoping). Field & Game Australia shares wetland bird count data with the Catchment Management Authority which helps with reporting on environmental watering outcomes.

The Catchment Management Authority notifies many recreational user groups about environmental water deliveries. These groups include canoe clubs, outdoor education companies and school groups (many of whom come from outside of the region). These groups are interested in managing safety and also achieving opportunities for shared benefits from environmental watering (e.g. kayaking on higher flows in the Thomson river).

Environment groups

Representatives from environment groups (Environment Victoria, Landcare and Native Fish Australia) sit on the Macalister river Project Advisory Group.


Irrigation representatives sit on the Macalister river Macalister river Project Advisory Group.

Southern Rural Water sends environmental water delivery notifications to their irrigation customers on behalf of the Catchment Management Authority. These irrigation customers are often primarily interested in environmental watering from a safety and infrastructure protection perspective.

Traditional owners

Through the Catchment Management Authority Indigenous facilitator, the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation has been invited to join the Macalister river Project Advisory Group.

The Catchment Management Authority and Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation have a Memorandum of Understanding. The Catchment Management Authority recognises the recently developed Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation draft Whole Of Country Plan which contains aspirations for rivers and wetlands in Gippsland.


The Wellington Shire Council is a member of the Macalister river Macalister river Project Advisory Group.

The Wellington Shire Council, the Latrobe City Council and the Baw Baw Shire Council are all on the Southern Rural Water environmental water delivery notification list.

General public

Public signage informing the general public about upcoming environmental water deliveries is set up a few days before a planned delivery along key recreational sites in the upper Thomson River. This is for primarily for public safety purposes.