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About the seasonal watering plan

The plan previews the potential environmental watering that could be implemented using water available under all environmental water entitlements held in Victoria. This includes water available under our environmental water entitlements and water held by other environmental water holders

The plan is released by 30 June each year. The 2016–17 plan, and any variations, are valid for this financial year (1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017) or until the subsequent seasonal watering plan is released.

Nature doesn't keep to strict timelines, so some potential environmental watering scoped in a seasonal watering plan may begin before, or continue beyond, the year of the plan. This means environmental watering that starts either before July 2015 or continues after June 2016 is still consistent with the plan, especially if there are unforeseen delays in the release of the Seasonal Watering Plan 2017–18.

Seasonal Watering Plan 2017-18

To ensure we are delivering water where and when it is most needed and achieving the best environmental outcomes for Victoria, we base our plans on local knowledge and rigorous science. Our annual seasonal watering plan is based on proposals developed by catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water, drawing from scientific river and wetland studies and community engagement.

Section 1: Introduction

Section 2: Gippsland Region

Section 3: Central Region

Section 4: Western Region

Section 5: Northern Region

Section 6: Further Information

Snapshots of where environmental water will be delivered in 2016-17 and why

Central plan on a page snapshot

Greater Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong

Gippsland plan on a page snapshot


Western plan on a page

Western Victoria

Northern plan on a page

Northern Victoria

The planning process

Each year waterway managers scope potential environmental watering for their regions for the coming year in seasonal watering proposals.

The proposals draw on environmental flow studies, and longer term plans such as environmental water management plans and regional waterway strategies. The proposals alsoincorporate information and advice from local communities.

The seasonal watering plan is a collated summary of the proposals.

To the right you will see the different stages of planning.

We plan for season variability

Environmental watering objectives and water availability differs depending on seasonal conditions – drought, dry, average or wet to very wet seasons.

The scenarios below are a guide for us and waterway managers throughout the year to decide what environmental watering to go ahead with.

The potential environmental watering under each scenario is captured in the scenario planning section of the relevant system.

Planning process diagram

Who contributes to the seasonal watering plan?

Each year, waterway managers (Catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water) meet with community members to develop their regional seasonal environmental watering proposals for the coming year.

The level and method of engagement varies across the state, reflecting the different systems, watering actions and community groups.

In some regions, formal environmental water advisory groups give interested community members the opportunity to discuss environmental watering in their region or locality for the coming year. In other systems, engagement occurs one-on-one between waterway managers and interested people.

Land managers and storage managers also consider and endorse the seasonal watering proposals to ensure that watering plans align with land and storage management objectives and can feasibly be delivered.

The engagement activities by waterway managers are summarised in each of the regions.

Find out more about how communities are involved in environmental watering decisions by visiting the regional pages.


Changes to the seasonal watering plan

Under the Victorian Water Act 1989, we can only authorise use of environmental water where it is consistent with a seasonal watering plan. This ensure transparency about what environmental watering is planned.

However, to also ensure flexibility to adapt to changing conditions, under the Act we can vary any section of a seasonal watering plan.

This could be to incorporate new knowledge or to address any circumstances not identified before the start of the financial year.

For example, in 2014–15 we varied the seasonal watering plan to revise the potential environmental watering in the Campaspe River in light of an updated scientific study of its environmental water requirements.

What changes don’t need a formal variation?

Changes that don't require a variation to the seasonal watering plan include:

  • minor operational adjustments to specific watering actions
  • using the water to manage environmental emergencies
  • using small volumes of environmental water for technical investigations
  • facilitating water deliveries held by other water holders for downstream objectives.

Minor operational adjustments

Minor operational adjustments to environmental watering occurs from time to time. For example, the stretches of river being targeted, water flow rates, timing and durations in the plan might change slightly due to changes in predicted rainfall or other water orders, or infrastructure constraints. In all cases, environmental watering still aims to maximise environmental outcomes.

Environmental emergencies

Environmental water may be needed to manage an environmental emergency, such as reducing the impact of natural blackwater or bushfire events, preventing fish deaths or mitigating the effects of blue-green algae. Environmental water was used to increase oxygen levels in the Lower Broken Creek during the 2016 blue-green algae outbreak.   

It can also be used to smooth the transition to or from a high natural water event (for example, supplementing flows from rainfall with environmental water to provide a more gradual rise and fall to minimise reduce river banks slumping and erosion).

Small technical investigations

Small volumes of environmental water can be used for research and development. If this happens the project must aim to enhance knowledge and improve environmental water management. It can't compromise achieving the environmental objectives in the seasonal watering plan.

Facilitating water deliveries

Some water held by other environmental water holders (such as the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority  is stored in Victorian storages and is sometimes called on to meet the needs of plants and animals downstream beyond the scope of this plan (such as the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region in South Australia).

We facilitate and authorise water deliveries, provided they don't have adverse impacts on Victoria's rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

Implementing the seasonal watering plan

The seasonal watering plan scopes potential environmental watering for the coming year, but many factors influence what environmental water is actually committed and delivered.

It is important that there is flexibility to respond to these different factors, as they can significantly influence the watering results. 

For more details about implementing the plan including when we commit and authorise water for use, whether water managers can change their mind about watering and managing risks see the introduction of the seasonal watering plan.

Factors that influence water delivery

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River and system operations (such as unregulated water, catchment inflows, storage levels, other water users’ needs and potential delivery constraints)
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Ecological or biological factors (such as plant and animal responses to natural flows or temperature)
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Seasonal and catchment conditions and weather forecasts
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Water availability
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Risks associated with environmental watering (such as deteriorating water quality)