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Environmental water entitlements

An environmental water entitlement is a legal right to a share of water available at a location (for example, Upper Yarra Reservoir), subject to rules and conditions.

There are also water entitlements for households, industry and irrigated farming.

Environmental water entitlements provide a right to water that can be managed to benefit the environment. The rules and conditions of each environmental entitlement determine how much water is available and when.

What are the different types of entitlements?

A bucket is a good metaphor for environmental water entitlements that provide a right to access water held in water storages.

The size of the bucket is determined by the entitlement volume, or the maximum amount of water that can be accessed annually. How the bucket is filled with water is determined by the rules and conditions of the entitlement.

In most cases, water available in the entitlement (bucket) varies from year to year depending on how much water is in storage and how much it has rained. The 'water available' is often referred to as 'water allocation'.

bucket comparison 

Generally, each entitlement (bucket) gets filled with water (allocation) as more water becomes available in storage.

In many systems, a water corporation (also known as a storage manager or a resource manager) progressively allocates water to entitlements throughout the year based on how much water is in storage. In a dry year, water allocated may be less than the total entitlement volume (the bucket does not fill). In a wet year, the full volume is likely to be allocated early (the bucket fills quickly), as the figure above illustrates.

Water allocation to an entitlement could be determined by a specified share of inflows or by other defined rules.

An entitlement may have a specified 'reliability', which indicates how consistently the entitlement (bucket) is filled and the priority order in which it is filled in any year. For example, in systems like the Murray, high-reliability entitlements are filled before and more frequently than low-reliability entitlements.

Some environmental water entitlements are not linked to a water storage and access to water is only permitted on an opportunistic basis (that is, when water is actually flowing in a river, rather than being captured in a storage). These entitlements—called unregulated entitlements—permit diversion of in-river flows above a certain height or rate, or flows that are in excess of what is needed to supply consumptive uses.

Environmental water entitlements pie chart
Proportion of water entitlements in Victoria. Based on total volume of surface water entitlements recorded in Victorian Water Register 30 June 2014. Does not include entitlements not accounted for in the Register (such as minimum or unregulated river flows and other rules-based environmental water like the Barmah-Millewa environmental water account).

Where do environmental water entitlements exist in Victoria?

Environmental water entitlements are held in 15 water supply systems across Victoria.

We and other environmental water holders try to avoid water supply shortfalls by using environmental water efficiently and by carrying over and trading water.

If there are still shortfalls, we, in collaboration with waterway managers such as catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water (and other water holders if relevant) must prioritise where we water.

The figure below shows where environmental water entitlements are held. It includes entitlements held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

The Victorian Water Register has detailed information about entitlements.

How much water is available to use for environmental watering?

Environmental water is available under environmental water entitlements held by us.

The water available to use under these entitlements varies from year to year, depending on entitlement rules, seasonal conditions (including rainfall and runoff in the catchments) and the water already available in storages.

Here are the environmental water entitlements held by us as at 30 June 2015. 1

Gippsland region

System

Entitlement

Volume (ML)

Class of entitlement

Latrobe

Latrobe River Environmental Entitlement 2011

n/a2

Unregulated

Blue Rock Environmental Entitlement 2013

18,7373

Share of inflow

Thomson

Bulk Entitlement (Thomson River – Environment) Order 20054

10,000

High

Macalister

Macalister River Environmental Entitlement 2010

12,461

6,230

High

Low

Central region

System

Entitlement

Volume (ML)

Class of entitlement

Yarra

Yarra Environmental Entitlement 20064

17,000

55

High

Unregulated

Tarago

Tarago and Bunyip Rivers Environmental Entitlement 2009

3,0003

Share of inflow

Werribee

Werribee River Environmental Entitlement 2011

n/a3

Share of inflow

Moorabool

Moorabool River Environmental Entitlement 20104

7,0863

Share of inflow

Barwon

Barwon River Environmental Entitlement 2011

n/a2

Unregulated

Western region

System

Entitlement

Volume (ML)

Class of entitlement

Wimmera and Glenelg

Wimmera and Glenelg Rivers Environmental Entitlement 20104,5

40,560

1,000

Pipeline product

Wetland product

 Northern region

System

Entitlement

Volume (ML)

Class of entitlement

Murray

Bulk Entitlement (River Murray – Flora and Fauna) Conversion Order 1999

29,782

3,894

40,000

High

Low

Unregulated

Bulk Entitlement (River Murray – Flora and Fauna) Conversion Order 1999 – Barmah-Millewa Forest Environmental Water Allocation

50,000

25,000

High

Low

Bulk Entitlement (River Murray – Flora and Fauna)
Conversion Order 1999 – Living Murray

9,589

101,850

34,300

High

Low

Unregulated

Environmental Entitlement (River Murray – NVIRP Stage 1) 2012

21,9656

High

Bulk Entitlement (River Murray – Snowy Environmental Reserve) Conversion Order 2004

29,794

High

Water shares – Snowy Environmental Reserve

14,671

6,423

High

Low

Goulburn

Goulburn River Environmental Entitlement 2010

8,851

3,140

High

Low

Environmental Entitlement (Goulburn System – Living Murray) 2007

39,625

156,980

High

Low

Environmental Entitlement (Goulburn System – NVIRP Stage 1 ) 2012

31,6796

High

Bulk Entitlement (Goulburn System – Snowy Environmental Reserve) Order 2004

30,252

8,156

High

Low

Water Shares – Snowy River Environmental Reserve

8,321

17,852

High

Low

Silver and Wallaby Creeks Environmental Entitlement 20064

0

Passing flow only

Campaspe

Environmental Entitlement (Campaspe River – Living Murray Initiative) 2007

126

5,048

High

 Low

Campaspe River Environmental Entitlement 2013

20,652

2,966

High

Low

Loddon

Bulk Entitlement (Loddon River – Environmental Reserve) Order 20055

8,270

2,024

High

Low

Environmental Entitlement (Birch Creek – Bullarook System) 20094,5

100

n/a7

Water Shares – Snowy River Environmental Reserve

470

High

1 While the VEWH does not hold any entitlements in the Maribyrnong system, water allocation was purchased in this system (together with Melbourne Water) in 2013–14 and 2014–15.

2 Use of these entitlements is dependent upon suitable river heights, as specified in both the Latrobe and Barwon environmental entitlements.

3 Water is accumulated continuously according to a share of inflows (Blue Rock 9%, Tarago system 10.3%, Werribee system 10%, Moorabool system 11.9%) and this volume represents the maximum that can be stored at any time. The actual volume available in any year varies according to inflows.

4 In addition to volumetric entitlement, the entitlement also includes passing flows.

5 In addition to volumetric entitlement, the entitlement also includes unregulated water.

6 This entitlement volume is equal to one-third of the total water savings from GMW Connections Project Stage 1, as verified in the latest audit (including mitigation water).

7 Allocation against this entitlement is made subject to specific triggers, as specified in the entitlement.

* Information about water available for environmental flows in the Snowy system.

Map of Victorian water entitlemments
The sum of environmental water entitlements held in Victoria (including by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority under The Living Murray program) as at 30 June 2015.

How have environmental water entitlements been created?

In response to declining river and wetland health due the amount of water being taken out and the construction of dams, weirs and channels, governments have invested significantly over the past two decades to recover water for the environment.

In Victoria, this has occurred largely through water-saving projects, such as improving the efficiency of delivering water to towns and farms. Some of the water savings from these projects are then converted into environmental water entitlements.

Who holds the environmental water entitlements?

Environmental water entitlements are largely held by State and Commonwealth government agencies often referred to as 'environmental water holders'.

In Victoria this includes the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority as part of the Living Murray program.

Water donations

We can receive water donations from individuals, community groups and other organisations.

This water could be used for environmental watering in the financial year it was donated (including for actions identified in the seasonal watering plan), or it could be carried over for use in the future.

Some donors may identify a specific use for the water (such as in a specific wetland or to protect a certain tree species).

The costs and benefits of each donor proposal is considered by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and these donations may be authorised by us if they're considered environmentally beneficial. 

Read about Christiane Jaeger who has generously donated water to the environment since 2008.