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The Broken River rises in the Wellington–Tolmie highlands in central Victoria and flows in a westerly direction to Lake Nillahcootie. The river then flows north to Benalla, then west before it discharges to the Goulburn River near Shepparton. 

The Broken Creek diverges from the Broken River downstream of Benalla and flows to the River Murray near Barmah Forest. The creek is located on a flat riverine plain and has naturally low run-off from its local catchment. It receives flood flows from the Broken River although these are much less frequent than occurred naturally, due to earthworks and road construction.

The Broken River has the characteristics of a foothills stream with relatively steep, confined sections immediately below Lake Nillahcootie. The river then takes on the characteristics of a lowland river with a more-extensive floodplain between Swanpool and its confluence with the Goulburn River at Shepparton. The main tributaries of the Broken River include Hollands Creek, Ryans Creek and Lima East Creek (formerly Moonee's Creek). Much of the area has been cleared for agriculture including dryland agriculture (such as livestock grazing and cereal cropping) and irrigated agriculture (such as dairy, fruit and livestock). 

Upper Broken Creek extends for about 65 km from Caseys Weir to Katamatite. The creek has been used to divert consumptive water supplies from the Broken River for more than 100 years, although irrigation entitlements have been significantly reduced as part of water savings projects in the last ten years. There are now low flows all year round at the top of the creek (Caseys Weir to Waggarandal Weir) as water can only be supplied from the Broken River based on orders from customers in the creek. In the lower reaches (Waggarandal Weir to Reillys Weir and Reillys Weir to Katamatite), the system is most influenced by rainfall and catchment run-off which provide infrequent flow. Diverting water from the Broken River to the top reach may achieve some environmental objectives.

Environmental targets can also be met by water delivered from Lake Nillahcootie to meet downstream consumptive demands in the River Murray (known as inter-valley transfers). Broken system inter-valley transfers occur usually during summer and autumn. These flows may help achieve the desired environmental objectives without the need to release environmental water.

System map

Environmental watering objectives in the Upper Broken Creek

Landscape icon
Move built-up sand and clay material to restore deep pools and provide habitat for water animals
Fish icon
Protect and increase populations of native fish (including threatened Murray cod and golden perch) by improving pool habitat and stimulating fish to migrate and spawn
Insect icon
Support a wide range of waterbugs to provide energy, break down dead organic matter and support the river’s food chain
Plant icon
Improve and maintain plants on the riverbank and in the river channel
Water icon
Maintain water quality

Environmental values

The Broken River supports healthy and diverse aquatic vegetation. A range of native submerged and emergent plant species populate the bed and margins of the river including eelgrass, common reed and water ribbons. The Broken River retains one of the best examples of healthy in-stream vegetation in a lowland river in the region. These plants provide habitat for a range of animals including small- and large-bodied native fish species. 

The upper Broken Creek area is dominated by unique box riparian vegetation and supports remnant plains grassy woodland. Much of this area also lies in a natural features reserve, which contains high-quality native vegetation. The creek supports a variety of threatened animals including fish species (such as the carp gudgeon, Murray cod, golden perch and Murray–Darling rainbowfish).

Social, cultural and economic values

The Broken River and upper Broken Creek floodplain contains a range of Aboriginal cultural heritage values including scar trees and sites of significance for Traditional Owner groups including the Yorta Yorta and Taungurung peoples. The Broken River and Broken Creek systems continue to hold significance for Traditional Owners. The systems also support a range of recreational and tourism values, providing opportunities for bushwalking, fishing and bird watching. The waterways are an important source of water and a delivery mechanism for stock and domestic and irrigation customers.

Conditions mid-2017

The return of wet conditions in winter/spring 2016 resulted in bankfull and overbank flows along both the Broken River and upper Broken Creek. Flows of such magnitude had not occurred at all in the upper Broken Creek since 2010–11 and were more than double the highest flow rate recorded in the Broken River over the same period. 

Tributary inflows over summer/autumn 2016–17 helped maintain a higher average flow in the lower reaches of the Broken River compared to the past few years, but the influence of Lake Nillahcootie reduced flows in reach 1. Over summer/autumn, reaches 2 and 3 experienced low flows typical for this time of year.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the upper Broken Creek system

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Summer/autumn fresh in upper Broken Creek (1 fresh of up to 100 ML/day for 2 days in December–May)

  • Maintain water quality, particularly in refuge pools

Summer/autumn low flows in the Broken River (up to 15 ML/day in December–May)

  • Maintain habitat for native fish, aquatic plants and waterbugs

Summer/autumn fresh in the Broken River (1 fresh of up to 500 ML/ day for 2 to 8 days in December–May)

  • Move sediment and scour biofilms to increase productivity for waterbugs
  • Maintain habitat for aquatic plants
  • Provide passage for native fish and stimulate breeding and movement

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, Goulburn Broken 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 Goulburn Broken region communities are involved in decisions about the Goulburn River and wetlands, Broken River and wetlands and the Murray River and wetlands. This happens through formal advisory groups: Environmental Water Advisory Groups focusing on rivers, a wetland advisory group and the Barmah Millewa Operations Advisory Group.

Who is engaged and how

Recreational users

Through formal advisory groups, recreational users provide local advice and raise opportunities for 'shared benefits' including whether the timing of environmental watering may align with key recreational events such as cod and duck opening. Recreational users are informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.

Goulburn-Murray Water directly engages with recreational user groups that use Goulburn-Murray Water water storages for recreation through planned consultations and meetings to discuss storage levels and potential impacts of environmental water releases from storages.

Environment groups

Through formal advisory groups, environment groups provide local knowledge, land management advice and advocate for the environment. They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the
outcomes of environmental watering.


Through formal advisory groups, farmers and landholders (who often own land with river frontages) provide local knowledge and land management advice. They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.

Traditional Owners

Through the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority Indigenous Facilitator, the Yorta Yorta Nation (responsible for managing some land and reserves in the region) is given the opportunity to provide input to seasonal watering proposals through annual briefings with the Catchment Management Authority.

There are Yorta Yorta representatives from the Goulburn Broken region who are members of the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations. The Victorian Environmental Water Holder, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray Darling Basin Authority engage Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations on strategic (often longer term) issues related to environmental watering.


Through the wetland advisory group (due to their role as land managers for some wetlands), Councils provide local advice.
They also support local advertising during water delivery and share data for reporting.

Goulburn-Murray Water consults with the Greater Shepparton City Council and the Moira Shire Council regularly on water management, including on environmental water management.

General public

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority communicates through their website, media releases, advertisements in local papers, a column in Country News, in the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority bi-monthly newsletter, social media, radio, community forums and partnered research.