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.