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Moora Moora Reservoir and Rocklands Reservoir are Wimmera-Mallee System Headworks water storages in the Glenelg River system that contribute to the supply of water to towns and properties across the Wimmera, Mallee, Glenelg, Loddon and Avoca river catchments. Water for the environment is actively managed in the Glenelg River below Rocklands Reservoir. Passing-flow rules are in place for the Glenelg River and upper Wannon River.

The priority reaches of the Glenelg River that can be targeted by environmental flow releases are Rocklands Reservoir to

5-Mile Outlet (reach 1a), 5-Mile Outlet to the confluence with the Chetwynd River (reach 1b), Chetwynd River to the Wannon River (reach 2) and Wannon River to the tidal extent just below the confluence with Crawford River (reach 3). Water for the environment in the Glenelg system is released from Rocklands Reservoir for reach 1a via the reservoir wall outlet and for reaches 1b, 2 and 3 via the 5-Mile and 12-Mile outlets.

The Glenelg River estuary benefits from releases of water for the environment to upstream reaches, but releases do not currently target the estuary. The Glenelg Hopkins CMA is investigating the influence of water for the environment managed on the Glenelg River estuary, which is listed as a heritage river reach and a site of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.

Trial releases were delivered from Moora Moora Reservoir above Rocklands Reservoir (reach 0) in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. The results of that trial will be analysed to inform future decisions about the potential use of water for the environment in reach 0.

Traditional Owners
Storage manager
Environmental water holder

System map

Environmental watering objectives in the Glenelg system

Protect and increase populations of native fish
Landscape icon
Maintain deep pool habitats and connectivity along the river
Platypus icon
Maintain the platypus population
Plant icon
Maintain the health and increase the abundance of in-stream and streamside vegetation (such as river red gums and Wimmera River bottlebrush)
Insect icon
Maintain a wide range and large number of waterbugs to provide energy, break down organic matter and support the river’s food chain
Water icon
Maintain water quality for native fish, waterbugs, aquatic vegetation and other water-dependent animals

Environmental values

The Glenelg River starts in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park and flows to the sea through the Lower Glenelg National Park. The lower reaches of the Glenelg River are part of a landscape recognised as one of Australia’s 15 national biodiversity hotspots, and the Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay site is Australia’s most recent listing under the Ramsar Convention.

The Glenelg River supports a range of rare and unique aquatic life including the endangered Glenelg freshwater mussel, Glenelg spiny crayfish and a newly described species of river blackfish. It is also home to platypus and populations of native fish including estuary perch, kooyang (short-finned eel), tupong and three species of pygmy perch including the threatened variegated pygmy perch and Yarra pygmy perch. Some of these fish species migrate long distances to and from the Glenelg River estuary to complete their life cycles.

Frasers Swamp is another important feature of the upper Glenelg system and is home to a healthy growling grass frog population.

The Glenelg River supports a variety of streamside vegetation communities and species including the endangered Wimmera bottlebrush. Streamside and floodplain vegetation is comprised of river red gum woodlands with paperbark, bottlebrush and tea tree understorey.

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

The Glenelg River, known as Bochara in Dhauwurd Wurrung, Pawur in Bunganditj and Bogara in Wergaia-Jadawadjali languages, is a significant feature in the cultural landscape of south-western Victoria. The river features in the region’s creation stories. Bochara-Bogara-Pawur continues to be an important place for Traditional Owners, who have inhabited the area for thousands of years, using the rich resources available along the river and associated habitats.

In planning for environmental flows in the Glenelg River, the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation and Glenelg Hopkins CMA have considered:

  • supporting the health of cultural heritage sites (such as scar trees) and the health of native plants, which are sources of traditional foods and medicines
  • that improving the health and abundance of totem species and their habitat by environmental watering also benefits Traditional Owners’ spiritual wellbeing
  • supporting contemporary cultural events (such as the Johnny Mullagh Cup).

Aboriginal Peoples across the Glenelg catchment have retained a strong identity and connection to the traditional lands for which they have custodial rights and responsibilities. Traditional Owners’ values in the Bochara-Bogara-Pawur system align strongly with environmental values. Traditional Owners’ values are holistic and interrelated: they are bound up with the health of the river system overall, and the Country of which the river is part. Traditional Owners’ wellbeing is connected to the health of the river and of Country.

Gunditjmara Traditional Owners have identified that it is a priority to spend time on the river and increase cultural practices and connection to Country. They have highlighted the importance of increasing ceremony and on-Country gatherings along the river, including at Casterton and Nelson.

During the current phase of the Glenelg River Cultural Flows project, on-Country gatherings were planned at important sites along the river, to identify and discuss cultural values with Traditional Owners who are connected to the river. Due to COVID-19, these physical gatherings could not take place, so the project partners undertook ‘virtual visits’, where Traditional Owners visit important places on the river to take photos and footage of the site, which are then uploaded to an online ‘virtual tour’ platform. The initial sites to be featured on the platform are Piccaninnie Ponds in South Australia, Jananginj Njaui (Victoria Gap, Gariwerd), and Red Cap Creek Streamside Reserve near Casterton.

Senior Traditional Owners have recorded stories and information at several important sites: about the history and culture of the river and how it needs to be looked after for future generations. The stories and other information will inform the cultural flows plan and will become part of the ‘virtual tour’.

Figure 1 Glenelg River Environmental Flow Seasonal Calendar arises from the six seasons of Gunditjmara Country, and it was produced by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation. The northern part of the river upstream of the

Harrow area is in Jadawadjali Country and the south-western part of the system is in Boandik Country. The calendar illuminates flow regimes along one reach of the Glenelg River — reach 1b, from 5-Mile Outlet to Chetwynd River — and aligns them with corresponding environmental events and observations. The calendar reflects the seasonal flow conditions that all Traditional Owner groups recognise.

The value of the calendar is in its clear visual depiction of Traditional Owner knowledge, developed over many generations, of how varying flows correspond to seasonal conditions and broader environmental patterns. In recognition of this knowledge, the Gunditjmara seasons have been incorporated into Table 1, as a complementary description of the timing of potential watering actions. The six seasons will eventually be embedded in the flow recommendations and scenario planning in future years.

Increasing the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water planning and management, and ultimately providing opportunities to progress towards self-determination within and beyond the environmental watering program, is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by a range of legislation and policy commitments (for example the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, Water for Victoria (2016)) and, in some cases, agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 1 with an icon. The use of this icon is not intended to indicate that these activities are meeting all the needs of Traditional Owners but is incorporated in the spirit of valuing that contribution, and indicating progress towards this objective.

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Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support Aboriginal cultural values and uses

The timing of the summer/autumn fresh is planned to support the annual Johnny Mullagh Cup cricket match between the Gunditj Mirring and Barengi Gadjin Traditional Owners. The fresh will improve water quality in swimming holes and improve amenity for Traditional Owners attending the cricket event, which is an important cultural event on the river.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential watering actions in Table 1, Glenelg Hopkins CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:

  • water-based recreation (such as canoeing and fishing)
  • community events and tourism (such as the Johnny Mullagh Cup and visitation)
  • socio-economic benefits (such as diversions for domestic and stock uses, greater wellbeing and economic benefits for regional communities).

If the timing or management of planned environmental flows may be modified to align with a community benefit, this is acknowledged in Table 1 with the following icons.

Fishing icon

Watering planned to support angling activities

Kayak icons

Watering planned to support water sports activities (e.g. canoeing)

Camping icon

Watering planned to support peaks in visitation (e.g. camping or other public activities on long weekends or school holidays)

Environmental flow releases support the spawning and recruitment of popular angling species like estuary perch and bream. Local anglers continue to report increased fish activity associated with the delivery of freshes, improving fishing opportunities in the river. Releases support numerous fishing competitions including those of the Balmoral, Casterton and Dartmoor angling clubs.

The planning of the summer fresh improves accessibility, water quality and amenity for canoeists planning trips on the Glenelg River over the summer holiday period.

Summer and spring freshes provide a freshening flow that improves conditions at popular riverside campgrounds in the upper reaches of the Glenelg River including Fulham Reserve near Balmoral and the Johnny Mullagh Reserve at Harrow.

Recent conditions

Rainfall and temperatures in the Glenelg system in 2020-21 were close to the long-term average, and large rain events over spring and summer contributed to significant tributary inflows below Rocklands Reservoir. However, rainfall in the catchments of the Wimmera-Mallee System Headworks storages was well below the long-term average, which limited allocations of environmental water. Allocations to the Wimmera-Glenelg environmental entitlement only reached 57 percent by April 2021, and many environmental watering actions in 2020-21 were provided by water that had been carried over from 2019-20 and passing flows that were accumulated during winter/spring 2020.

Catchment runoff, tributary inflows and managed passing flows maintained minimum low-flow requirements and provided several freshes in the Glenelg River during winter and spring 2020. Large natural flows during September and October peaked at 1,837 ML per day in reach 1b, 5,269 ML per day in reach 2 and 16,916 ML per day in reach 3, providing natural connections between the river and some low-lying floodplain areas. These flows improved the health of vegetation on the banks and floodplain areas, and they allowed native fish and platypus to access feeding and breeding habitat along the length of the river. Water for the environment was used to maintain a continuous connection between Rocklands Reservoir and the estuary between December 2020 and May 2021 and to deliver one summer/autumn fresh to reach 1b to support native fish, platypus and vegetation objectives.

The limited supply of water for the environment in the Wimmera-Glenelg environmental entitlement meant that the Glenelg system was managed under a drought climate scenario, even though local climatic conditions were closer to average. All high-priority watering actions that were planned for the drought climate scenario were delivered in 2020-21, including summer/ autumn low flows to reaches 1b and 2. Two additional watering actions were also delivered: summer/autumn low flow to reach 1a and summer/autumn fresh to reach 1b. Natural flows and passing flows during winter and spring met additional priorities under the drought climate scenario including winter/spring low flows in reaches 1a, 1b and 2 as well as two winter/spring freshes in reaches 1b and 2.

If dry conditions persist, environmental watering actions in the Glenelg River during 2021-22 will likely focus on maintaining connectivity and water quality in reaches 1a, 1b and 2 to support recently recruited native fish including galaxiids, river blackfish, pygmy perch and estuary perch and to provide foraging opportunities for platypus.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the Glenelg River

Potential environmental watering action

Expected watering effects

Environmental objectives

Winter/spring low flow in reach 1a (60 ML/day or natural during June to November)

  • Maintain water quality for fish and waterbugs
  • Wet aquatic vegetation to maintain its condition and prevent encroachment by terrestrial species
  • Maintain shallow-water habitat for fish, waterbugs and platypus
Fish icon Plant iconPlatypus iconWater drop icon

Winter/spring low flow in reach 1b (100 ML/day or natural during June to November/Big Wet to Fattening Up*)

Winter/spring low flow in reach 2 (160 ML/day or natural during June to November)

Winter/spring low flow in reach 3 (400 ML/day or natural during June to November)
  • Wet benches to increase habitat and allow widespread fish passage

Fish icon

Winter/spring fresh(es) in reach 1b (one to five freshes of 250 ML/day for one to five days during June to November/Big Wet to Fattening Up*)
  • Wet benches to improve the condition of emergent vegetation and vegetation on the riverbanks to support recruitment and growth and maintain habitat diversity
  • Provide adequate depth for fish passage and cue fish movement
  • Encourage female platypus to select a nesting burrow higher up the bank to reduce the risk of higher flow later in the year flooding the burrow when juveniles are present
  • Scour sand from pools to improve the quality of fish habitat

Fish iconMountain iconsPlatypus iconPlant icon

Winter/spring fresh(es) in reach 2 (one to five freshes of 300 ML/day for one to five days during June to November)

Summer/autumn low flow in reach 1a (10 ML/day or natural during December to May)

Camping iconKayak iconsFishing icon
  • Protect against rapid water-quality decline over the low- flow period
  • Maintain edge habitats, pools and shallow-water habitat for fish, waterbugs and platypus
  • Maintain a near-permanent wetted stream channel to promote the growth of in-stream vegetation and prevent encroachment by terrestrial plants

Fish iconWater drop iconPlatypus iconPlant iconInsect icon

Summer/autumn low flow in reach 1b (15 ML/day or natural during December to May/Big Dry to Early Wet*)

Camping iconKayak iconsFishing icon

Summer/autumn low flow in reach 2 (25 ML/day or natural during December to May)

Camping iconKayak iconsFishing icon

Summer/autumn low flow in reach 3 (80 ML/day or natural during December to May)

Camping iconKayak iconsFishing icon

Summer/autumn freshes in reach 1a (one to two freshes of 60 ML/day for two to three days during December to May)

Billabong iconCamping iconKayak iconsFishing icon
  • Flush fine silt from the stream bed and hard substrate to improve the quality of fish and waterbug habitat
  • Wet emergent vegetation on the lower banks to improve its condition and prevent the encroachment of terrestrial species
  • Flush pools to improve water quality and to lower temperatures
  • Provide sufficient flow to allow native fish and platypus to access habitat

Fish iconPlant iconPlatypus iconMountain iconsWater drop iconInsect icon

Summer/autumn fresh(es) in reach 1b (one to two freshes of 100 ML/day for two to three days during December to May/Big Dry to Early Wet*)

Billabong iconCamping iconKayak iconsFishing icon

Summer/autumn fresh(es) in reach 2 (one to two freshes of 150 ML/day for two to three days during December to May)

Billabong iconCamping iconKayak iconsFishing icon

Summer/autumn fresh(es) in reach 3 (one to two freshes of 150 ML/day for three days each or natural during December to May)

Billabong iconCamping iconKayak iconsFishing icon

* The six seasons of Gunditjmara country match to reach 1b watering, as Figure 1 shows.


Table 2 shows the partners, stakeholder organisations and individuals with which Glenelg Hopkins CMA engaged when preparing the Glenelg system seasonal watering proposal.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the Glenelg Hopkins Regional Catchment Management Strategy and Glenelg Hopkins Waterway Strategy for further details.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Glenelg system seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Friends of the Glenelg River
  • Glenelg River User Group
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water
  • Parks Victoria
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority
  • Wimmera Catchment Management Authority
  • Individual landholders
  • Balmoral Bush Nursing Centre
  • Balmoral Post Office
  • Glenelg River Boat Cruises
  • Grampians Resort
  • Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire
  • Paestan Canoe Hire
  • Vickery Brothers (sand extraction)
  • Balmoral Angling Club
  • Casterton Angling Society
  • Dartmoor Angling Club
  • Individual anglers
  • South-west Fishing Reports
  • VRFish
  • Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Corporation
  • Barengi Gadjin Land Council
  • Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation

Page last updated: 22/07/21