Vision: Water resources deliver the agreed cultural, environmental, economic and social values now and for future generations.
Water resources underpin the catchment’s economic productivity, biodiversity, ecosystem function and services and social wellbeing. Consequently, water resources are valued for a range of uses including cultural, recreational, agricultural, human consumption, environmental and so on.
Consumption and environmental demand for water is increasing while water availability is highly variable in a changing climate. For example, water supply may be lower with altered seasonality and extreme weather events.
The separation of land and water entitlements has resulted in water trading. As a result, demand from outside the catchment can influence local water availability and undesirable waterway flows. Increasing demand and/or less supply, combined with financial cost, has increased the emphasis on using water efficiently.
Water demand often outstrips supply given the complexity of the water trading market, the range of water use and values and the changing climate. This creates many challenges when prioritising water use and increases the importance of a catchment-wide approach that involves the community and decision-makers.
Where possible, water for agriculture, industry and towns is released in a manner that complements the environmental needs of rivers, wetlands and floodplains. This means that water for each sector can deliver benefits, for example, consumptive water can also deliver environmental benefits as it flows through the system.
Water allocations have become available for the environment in recent years. This helps fill gaps or provide triggers where water regulation, use and climate change have impacted environmental flows. This has already shown benefits for vegetation, water birds and fish.
A snapshot of the water theme of the strategy is provided in Figure 49, click on the tabs below for further details.
The catchment is home to Victoria’s longest river and largest river basin, the Goulburn River and the internationally recognised Barmah Forest Ramsar site. The catchment is also part of the Murray-Darling Basin and despite making up only 2% of its area, it provides 11% of the basin’s water resources.
Water provides for environmental, recreational, cultural and lifestyle values, as well as underpinning many of the agricultural industries.
Catchment water resources are supplied by rainfall that varies from an average of 1,600 mm in the south-east highlands to 400 mm in the northern plains (Bureau of Meteorology 2012). In an average year the catchment receives about 710 mm of rain over 2.4 million hectares. Historically, dry years (the lowest 30%) occur in about 12 out of 30 years, and wet years (the highest 30%) occur in about 7 out of 30 years. Due to climate change, annual rainfall has decreased by around 50 mm/year over the last 30 years, with less rain falling in autumn and spring. More extremely hot days and high evaporation rates result in considerably reduced runoff and stream flow.
The catchment’s water resources are described below.
Rivers and streams
The catchment is home to the Goulburn and Broken rivers, and many other significant waterways including the Broken Creek, the Yea, Acheron, Delatite, Howqua and Big rivers and the Holland, Hughes, Seven and King Parrot creeks.
Water regulation, by dams, weirs and channels, allows water to be stored and moved in and out the catchment to meet a mix of consumption (human, industrial, agricultural), cultural and environmental needs. Unregulated rivers and streams also support consumption, cultural and environmental uses.
All water use for consumption or irrigation purposes must be licensed, this includes water taken from privately owned irrigation dams.
The catchment is home to many significant wetlands including the Ramsar-listed Barmah Forest and the Winton Wetlands, the site of one of the world’s most significant environmental, social and economic renewal projects.
There are more than 2,000 wetlands across the catchment, including large permanent lakes, ephemeral wetlands, billabongs, spring soaks, alpine bogs and shallow depressions. Most natural wetlands are ephemeral, occur on private land and are less than 10 ha. All wetlands provide critical habitat for a range of species and important ecosystem services, such as nutrient recycling.
There are 2 main aquifer systems in the catchment which are estimated to be up to 300 GL per year. The shallow groundwater (up to 29 m) is a generally unconfined floodplain system that is affected by rainfall and land use, and sometimes can be connected to rivers and wetlands. The deep (80 m or more) confined groundwater systems are slower to respond to changes in rainfall and land use and some recharge occurs from outside the catchment boundaries.
Groundwater is a significant resource in the catchment and there is a high level of knowledge and understanding of the groundwater systems. Most systems are actively monitored and managed via Groundwater Management Areas and Water Supply Protection Areas by Goulburn Murray Water (click here for further details).
Water quality is primarily determined by the volume, flow, temperature and levels of nutrients, salinity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen. It is highly influenced by surrounding land use. Processes that cause these indicators to move out of acceptable condition are known and managed. However, some events can be difficult to predict and control. Water quality, particularly dissolved oxygen levels, is affected by intense rainfall, high temperatures and carbon build up on floodplains, periods of high temperatures with low flows and bushfires. These events are likely to increase in frequency with climate change.
Further data collection and monitoring of water pH is needed as there are signs it is trending up. Increasing trends in blue-green algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen events are also observed.
History of water management
Flows in the 2 major river systems, the Goulburn and the Broken, were regulated to increase the flows in summer and capture them in winter. This is the opposite of the natural condition that Traditional Owners had observed for thousands of years.
Post European settlement, river management focused on the construction of dams, levee banks and channels. Rivers were cleared of logs to provide safe access for boats and weirs were constructed to divert water for irrigation and urban use. The weirs stopped fish travelling up stream to spawn and collected silt flowing downstream.
The construction of large-scale reservoirs, storage and diversion of water for irrigation and urban use reduced the volume of water flowing down the rivers to an average of 46% by the early 2000s. These diversions significantly altered flow regimes and, in some areas, resulted in changing water temperatures with some species of fish failing to spawn and survive. To boost fishing opportunities, brown trout, rainbow trout and other alien species were introduced. However, this further impacted native fish through predation and competition until it was reported in 2008 that over 60% of the fish biomass in the Goulburn River was introduced species.
Major changes also happened on land. Following European settlement, over two thirds of the catchment became privately owned and native vegetation was cleared for agriculture and urban development. Many wetlands were drained and farmed resulting in significant loss of habitat for birds, fish and other native species. River banks were often cleared and livestock allowed to graze to the waters edge. This resulted in serious erosion and silt problems which were a major factor in the decline of native fish habitat by the early 1900s in the northern half of the catchment.
Agricultural and urban development resulted in increased nutrient levels in many rivers and streams with intensive irrigation and sewerage farms identified as the highest polluters. In the late 1990s, water quality in the lower catchment rivers was considered to be poor or degraded. This was largely due to high nutrient and turbidity levels with a growing frequency of blue-green algae outbreaks.
The Millennium Drought between 1998-2010 triggered fundamental changes in policies, priorities and the management of water across the Murray-Darling Basin. The changes separated water from land title and allowed water to be traded in and beyond the catchment. Water rights for the environment were created and an historic imbalance began to be addressed. Security of water for basic human needs was prioritised and controls put in place for extractions from unregulated catchments.
Water resources in the catchment are valued for a range of purposes including domestic, agriculture, industry and the environment. The community values water for recreation, health, lifestyle, tourism, amenity and wellbeing, which are not covered by any specific rights to water. Furthermore, there is increasing support for Traditional Owner rights to access water for cultural and economic benefits.
Where possible, water for agriculture, industry and towns is released in a manner that complements the environmental needs of rivers, wetlands and floodplains. This means that water for each sector can deliver other benefits, for example, consumptive water can also deliver environmental benefits as it flows through the system.
The catchment is part of a water trading market covering northern Victoria, southern NSW and South Australia. This water trading zone effectively operates as a single market, allowing surface and groundwater water to be traded to and from areas outside the catchment, within certain rules.
Water for consumptive and environmental use is also linked across years by the trading rules. This means that water captured in one year and not used, may be carried forward and used the following year. There are many national, basin, state and local legal requirements and frameworks that guide the sharing and use of water.
There are also a number of stakeholder and community forums that allow groups to provide feedback on water management in the catchment.
The different values, supported by the catchment’s water resources, are described below.
Agriculture and other industry values
Agricultural production is the dominant land use in the catchment, with a gross value exceeding $2.37 billion (ABS 2017-18). Agricultural industries include broadacre cropping, beef, sheepmeat, wool, dairy, horticulture (wine, fruit and vegetables) and intensive animals.
Approximately 57% of the total catchment is under dryland agriculture and 11% is under irrigated agriculture. The majority of irrigation is in the Shepparton Irrigation Region, which covers 460,000 ha. In recent years, between 350 and 800 GL of water was used in the Shepparton Irrigation Region primarily for dairy, cropping and horticulture.
Other industries, such as manufacturing, use about 11.1 GL of water a year primarily from potable supplies, with 9 companies using 0.1 GL or more annually. The key users are linked to agricultural production such as milk factories, fruit processors and food manufacturers.
The Goulburn and Broken river systems support native fish including many threatened species such as silver perch, trout cod, Murray cod, Macquarie perch and freshwater catfish. A number of non-native fish, such as trout, have been introduced and are popular with anglers. However, the key pest species is the European carp.
Riparian vegetation provides important habitat for terrestrial species and is extremely important as refuge for woodland birds and other fauna during drought. Waterways and remnant vegetation play an important role in moderating extremes in temperatures, which will become increasingly important under climate change. The catchment’s wetlands support a range of state and nationally threatened animals and plants, including brolga, Sloane’s froglet, broad-shelled turtle and river swamp wallaby-grass.
Classified as a wetland of international importance in 1982, the Barmah Forest Ramsar site is significant for waterbirds and provides habitat for many wetland-dependent native species. The ecological health of this area is essential to Traditional Owners’ cultural and spiritual connections to Country. The Barmah National Park is jointly managed by Parks Victoria and the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.
Recreation and lifestyle values
The aquatic environments are highly valued for tourism, recreation, health, wellbeing and amenity. Tourism and recreation are well established across the region with the rivers, streams and wetlands offering excellent fishing, hunting, water sports, bird-watching, kayaking, swimming and water skiing. The Goulburn River is a popular inland location for angling with 26% of Victorian anglers identifying it as their preferred inland fishing location. Nature-based tourism and recreation support many jobs in the region with an estimated 10% share of the region’s total employment.
Water also is highly valued for its lifestyle value. A growing population is living on or near water (17%) and land values are increasing in areas such as Nagambie Lakes and King Parrot Creek.
Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Raungurung Land and Waters Council have cultural, spiritual and economic connections to water and land. First Nations People have long understood the need to care for the land that provides food, water and shelter, the emotional and wellbeing benefits that come iwth a healthy environment and the responsibility that comes with being custodians of the land for future generations.
Significant water sites for Yorta Yorta Peoples include Barmah, Lower Goulburn National Park and Kanyapella Basin. The mid and upper-Goulburn River and wetlands including Horseshoe Lagoon and Reedy Lake are important to the Taungurung People.
Qualitative condition ratings for the catchment’s waterways, floodplains and irrigation system have been reported by the Goulburn Broken CMA since 1990. These ratings have been drawn from Goulburn Broken CMA annual reports, tipping points described by the community, socio-economic research and the water theme discussion paper developed as part of the strategy renewal. More information is available in the Goulburn Broken CMA annual reports.
Figure 50 shows the trends in the condition of the catchment’s waterways, floodplains and irrigation system since 1990, and the long-term risk of a decline in condition given current support.
Shepparton Irrigation Region
Figure 50: Trends in the condition of the Goulburn Broken Catchment’s waterways, floodplains and irrigation system since 1990, and the long-term risk of decline in condition given current support levels
Three connected elements support the condition of the catchment’s waterways, floodplains and irrigation systems: water availability, quality and biodiversity.
Water availability – quantity, place and timing
Water availability varies from good for urban use, to average for environmental and agricultural use. Under the cap and trade system of the water market, water tends to be used where returns are highest regardless of efficiency.
While water availability for the environment is improving, high unseasonable flows, due to intervalley transfers, are having a negative impact on the Goulburn River, lower Broken Creek and Barmah Forest Ramsar site. Limited or capped water, combined with lower reliability in a drying climate, continues to threaten the viability of irrigated agriculture.
The continued drying of the climate means that the demand for water will increasingly outstrip supply and the competition for water resources will intensify. River flows and water supply, in some parts of the catchment are also impacted by the growing lifestyle population placing strong demands on surface and groundwater. See Figure 51 for the estimated annual river inflow, from surface and subsurface runoff, into the catchment’s rivers since 2000.
While wetland condition is impacted by water availability, land use also influences seasonal wetland cover. Figure 52 shows the seasonal wetland cover for the catchment since 1985. Increased drainage and the area of cropping across the catchment has reduced the total wetland cover.
Overall, water quality varies from good to poor with current management and is at risk of declining.
The nutrient and salinity levels have improved significantly with changes such as the removal of riparian stock grazing, irrigation reuse dams, improvements in fertiliser management, improved waste water management, revegetation and groundwater pumping. The pH of water in some rivers and streams appears to be trending up and investigation required.
Water temperature, both high and low, remains an issue in parts of the catchment. High temperatures that occur with unusually low flows over summer reduce dissolved oxygen to levels lethal for aquatic fauna and promote blooms of toxic algae. It is expected that the incidents of unusually low flows in less connected streams are likely to increase given climate change and increasing populations. Low dissolved oxygen events occur rapidly, remain difficult to manage and can result in catastrophic loss of fish and other aquatic fauna. Low temperatures or cold water events can occur with the release of stored water.
Further information on water quality trends can be found in the Goulburn Broken Water Quality Strategy Review 2017.
Riparian and aquatic biodiversity
The condition of riparian and aquatic fauna varies from poor to good. Despite the maintenance of habitat at a number of sites with environmental flows, bird populations seem to be declining because of past habitat loss. Some fish populations have improved substantially with the removal of fish barriers, resnagging of streams, tree planting and delivery of water for the environment.
The extent of aquatic and riparian vegetation varies from poor to excellent, with the best condition on public land and in mountainous areas. Private landholders are increasingly fencing off riparian vegetation to exclude stock and revegetate. Table 112 shows the areas of protected or improve riparian land since 2014-15. There are now significant areas of riparian protection, for example, along the Broken Creek (82%), Howqua River (92%) and King Parrot Creek (73%). However, others still need significant work, such as the Yea River (21%), Stevenson River (50%) and Nine Mile Creek (55%). Instream habitat assessments rate headwater streams at near natural to mildly depleted. However, all low land systems rate as highly depleted (60% to 80% decrease from natural) to severely depleted (greater than 80% decrease from natural).
The main issues for public land managers are visitation and pest plant and animal impacts. The increasing and competing priorities for public resources is causing in an increasing need for public and private land mangers to explore new investment opportunities, in addition to public resources, to meet the urgent and large-scale changes required to improve riparian, aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity.
Table 112: Reporting of key outputs that contribute to riparian zone protection or improvement in the Goulburn Broken Catchment
|1. STRUCTURAL WORKS|
|1.2 Water storage||15||19||26||17||16||22|
|1.9 Fence (km)||15.18||30.11||36.30||24.51||45.69||32.77|
|2. ENVIRONMENTAL WORKS|
|2.1 Vegetation (ha)||27.00||64.38||94.71||71.61||68.32||45.03|
|2.2 Weed control (ha)||362.29||176.64||242.82||81.81||101.45||63.29|
|2.3 Pest animal control (ha)||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|2.8 Earth works (no.)||1.1 km*||1.82 km*||10||9||3||0|
|3. MANAGEMENT SERVICES|
|3.1 Grazing (ha)||0.00||122.60||435.11||160.10||170.50||106.66|
|4. PLANNING AND REGULATION|
|4.2 Management agreements (no.)||16||39||36||24||35||26|
Drivers of change
Drivers of change are forces that influence how the catchment operates and can shape future pathways. In addition, unanticipated or acute shocks such as pandemics, industry adjustment or drought can impact the catchment dynamics and water.
Tables 113-119 outline the 7 major drivers of change impacting water in the catchment. They were identified through community engagement and socio-economic analysis as part of the strategy renewal:
- water as a tradeable commodity
- climate change
- pest plants and animals
- increased recreational use and amenity value of rivers, streams and lakes
- changing relationship with nature
- growing recognition of Traditional Owner aspirations and inherent rights to water
- infrastructure and river operations.
Driver 1: Water as a tradeable commodity
Table 113: Catchment trends and impacts on water from water as a tradeable commodity
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
|• Water is moving to higher value commodity production.|
• Creation of environmental water entitlements have allowed water to be delivered to areas with greater environmental need.
• A range of values and uses creates competition in some areas.
• Market prices for commodities determine farmers’ capacity to buy water.
• Unseasonal high flows from the Goulburn River and mid-Murray to meet downstream irrigation demands impact Barmah Forest, the Goulburn River and Broken Creek.
• Potential for new industries (such as hydrogen production) to increase pressure on water resources.
|• River banks, riparian vegetation, aquatic habitat and community support for environmental flows and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan are threatened due to the unseasonal high water flows in the Murray and Goulburn rivers to meet downstream demand.|
• Unable to deliver regional values and aspirations due to competing priorities from other parts of the Murray-Darling Basin.
• Limited ability to deliver environmental water at the required time and volume.
• Reduced diversity of agricultural production, which reduces the resilience of agriculture to economic and environmental shocks.
• Viability of the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District’s upgraded irrigation system is threatened as reduced volume over the same geographic area results in prohibitive maintenance costs.
• True total cost of water use and water transfer needs to be better understood and factored in.
• Need for good information and transparency to support effective decision making.
Driver 2: Climate change
Table 114: Catchment trends and impacts on water from climate change
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
|• Hotter and drier climate.|
• Reduced reliability of rainfall in spring and autumn and increased intensity of summer rainfall.
• Increasing frequency and intensity of storms, heatwaves, bushfires, floods and droughts.
• Reduced inflows, including to public and private storages.
• Increased water temperature.
• Increased reliance on water sources such as groundwater.
|• Increased need for better planning that incorporates a range of potential scenarios and allows implementation to adjust from one scenario to another. |
• Declining wetlands health, including alpine bogs and fens, threaten native species and water quality.
• Threats to habitat for species reliant on riparian areas and/or drought refuge areas and a loss of species in some areas.
• A changing food web impacts riparian ecosystem communities.
• Temperature changes impact timing cues for reproduction and migration.
• Increased low oxygen events and blue-green algae outbreaks result in massive fish deaths.
• Decreased income for nature-based recreation and tourism businesses that rely on waterways and the flow-on effects to local towns.
• Insecure water supply for livestock from unregulated water, such as dams and spring soaks.
• Increased reliance on allocation trade for irrigation businesses, with some irrigators and/or commodities being priced out of the water market.
• Groundwater resources under increased pressure, reducing availability for agriculture and river and wetland baseflows.
• Reduced rainfall and runoff to water storages, stressing environmental and consumptive allocations.
• More and longer cease-to-flow events, impacting waterway and wetland health, recreation and visual amenity.
Driver 3: Pest plants and animals
Table 115: Catchment trends and impacts on water from pest plants and animals
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
|• Uncontrolled grazing by cattle, horses, deer and sheep in riparian zones.|
• Predation by foxes, feral cats and pigs.
• Weeds replacing native vegetation and reducing habitat quality for native fauna.
• Introduced fish, such as carp and mosquito fish, predating native fish and competing for food and shelter.
• Carp grazing aquatic vegetation, disturbing sediments and increasing turbidity.
• Overabundant native plants and animals due to highly modified landscapes, such as kangaroos, noisy miners, red gum seedings and cumbungi.
|• Grazing by cattle, deer, horses and sheep reduces water quality by: erosion of banks, increasing sedimentation and nutrient loading reduces native vegetation condition, and increasing water temperature because of a lack of shading.|
• Predation by foxes, cats and pigs in wetlands leads to declining populations of native species, particularly turtles and ground-nesting birds and frogs.
• Carp increase water turbidity, eat aquatic fauna and flora, including young fish and vegetation and reduce food availability.
• Pest plant and animal control actions that complement water for the environment are needed.
• Overabundant native animals, such as kangaroos and wallabies, can contribute to overgrazing which can damage riparian and wetland vegetation.
• Overabundant native plants in river red gum parks, for example, red gum seedlings, cumbungi and giant rush which can reduce the quality and/or diversity of riparian and wetland vegetation.
Driver 4: Increased recreational use and amenity value of rivers, streams and lakes
Table 116: Catchment trends and impacts on water from increased recreational use and amenity value of rivers, streams and lakes
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
|• Increasing use lakes and streams for recreation and relaxation.|
• Increasing development along rivers, streams and around water bodies.
|• Recreational fishing licence fees are used for local projects and angler groups contribute time and effort to on-ground projects and advocate for improvements.|
• A better understanding by angler groups of fish ecology and the value of native species means there is goodwill to protect fish and restore fish and riparian habitats.
• Increasing use of waterways results in the loss of local flora and fauna, bank erosion, soil compaction and the introduction of weeds and rubbish in high use areas.
• Increases in nature-based tourism and development of the regional economy.
• Increasing participation in projects such as RiverConnect, Support your Stream, Buy a Reach and Parks Victoria Junior Ranger.
• Increasing number of stakeholders and users live and work outside the region.
Driver 5: Changing relationship with nature
Table 117: Catchment trends and impacts on water from a changing relationship with nature
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
• Different approaches are required to engage different worldviews of nature held by the community.*
• Increased recognition of Traditional Owners cultural, spiritual and economic connections to nature.
|•Increasing need to connect with the community through the different uses of natural resources, such as amenity and recreation.|
• Need to better engage with the range of worldviews, which may mean tailoring communication messages to suit each worldview. We cannot assume that everyone values water the same way or is mindful of their environmental impact.
• Traditional Owners have a greater influence as custodians in decision making and implementation priorities.
• More companies around the world are signing up to the United Nation’s Education for Sustainable Development goals and there is pressure from shareholders to be more balanced and ethical.
• Support evidence-based decision making.
• Increasing need for education and information that cuts through.
• Support community leadership in water.
Driver 6: Growing recognition of Traditional Owner aspirations and inherent rights to water.
Table 118: Catchment trends and impacts on water from growing recognition of Traditional Owner aspirations and inherent rights to water
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
|• Greater recognition and inclusion of Traditional Owners in NRM.|
• Strategic policies guide Traditional Owner involvement in catchment planning, such as the Water for Victoria plan, Goulburn Broken CMA memorandum of understanding with Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation, Taungurung Recognition and Settlement Agreement, Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement and the National Water Initiative.
• Legislative changes have formalised co-management of specific areas and legal obligations for land managers of Crown land have resulted in more complex processes for decision-making and implementation.
• Greater acknowledgement of cultural aspirations as documented in Country Plans, which provide guidance and work plans to Traditional Owner groups and partners.
|• Greater acknowledgement, integration and incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge has highlighted the need for greater resourcing and shared understanding.|
• Increasing opportunities for Traditional Owner involvement in water management, for example, input to environmental water planning and management.
• A lack of understanding of Traditional Owner aspirations, priorities and rights could compromise opportunities for cooperation, collective effort and hinder environmental gains.
• Increased use of traditional ecological knowledge and practice in water management results in better advocacy and outcomes for ecological health of water and Country and improved health and wellbeing of Traditional Owners.
Driver 7: Infrastructure and river operations
Table 117: Catchment trends and impacts on water from infrastructure and river operations
|Catchment trends||Impacts on water|
|• Sections of many stream reaches remain cleared of instream and bank habitat, with no or limited fish passage.|
• Few irrigation diversions have fish screen systems to prevent fish injury and movement out of the natural waterway and into irrigation channels.
• Highly altered flow regimes for rivers and wetlands.
• Water that was historically an intrinsic part of terrestrial ecosystems is no longer available or part of these ecosystems.
|• Reduced habitat for native aquatic biota, which threatens the recovery of a range of species.|
• Irrigation off-takes draw millions of fish, larvae and eggs from rivers into irrigation systems.
• Fish populations are isolated limiting genetic transfer and ability to recolonise.
• Actions complementing water for the environment are needed.
Understanding and identifying tipping points of significant change is important to increasing the resilience of the catchment and its social, economic and environmental services. Significant change occurs when the characteristics of a system change so much that the system is no longer the same. A tipping point, or threshold, is a critical level of one or more variables. When crossed, it triggers abrupt change in the system that may not be reversible (Wayfinder 2021).
Some tipping points are well understood and can be used to track progress and guide management, while our understanding of others is still developing. It is a key outcome of the strategy to build our understanding of tipping points and how to apply them through partnerships and research projects with a range of organisations. This strategy outlines which tipping points are important to understand and monitor. In some circumstances tipping points have been exceeded and we need to establish targets to stabilise system function. Further information about tipping points is available here.
For water, tipping points need to be identified and monitored to direct actions in the following areas: water availability, water quality and riparian and aquatic biodiversity. Tables 120-122 outline the data-driven tipping points for water that will be investigated during the life of the strategy.
Table 120: Tipping points for the critical attributes of water availability
|Critical attribute||Tipping points focus areas|
|Quantity of water supply||• Amount of water for agriculture available to the Shepparton Irrigation Region in an average 100% allocation season.|
• Average recurrence interval of flooding.
• Urban water delivery restriction levels.
|Place of water supply||• Shallow water tables in the Shepparton Irrigation Region are maintained below 2 m for at least 50% of the irrigated landscape.|
|Timing of water supply||• Lower Goulburn River summer flow limits are not exceeded for extended periods of time..|
• Number of years without a spring fresh in rivers to sustain fish populations.
• Timing and frequency of red gum floodplain inundation.
• High priority wetlands don’t exceed wetting/drying cycle tolerances for the relevant EVC.
Table 121: Tipping points for the critical attributes of water quality
|Critical attribute||Tipping point focus areas|
|Salt and nutrients||• The percentage of water quality parameters managed within State Environment Protection Policy tolerance limits 100% of the time.|
• The level of median salinity at Casey’s Weir End-of-Valley Target site for the Broken River.
• The level median salinity at Goulburn Weir End-of-Valley Target site for the Goulburn River.
• A minimum riparian exclusion zone for livestock to prevent nutrient pollution.
|Dissolved oxygen||• Dissolved oxygen average daily concentrations.|
|Temperature||• Water temperature levels that support the viability and resilience of fish populations.|
|pH||• The pH of rivers and wetlands is maintained between certain levels.|
Riparian and aquatic biodiversity
Table 122: Tipping points for the critical attributes of riparian and aquatic biodiversity
|Critical attribute||Tipping point focus areas|
|Native vegetation extent||• A percentage of native vegetation cover for each EVC across the catchment.|
• A minimum riparian exclusion zone for livestock on a stream or wetland.
|Species diversity||• A minimum level of the prescribed species for the EVCs are present.|
• A range of EVCs across the catchment.
• Diversity of provenance of a species needed to ensure adaptation to climate change and extreme weather events.
• The intensity and frequency of grazing pressure that riparian and aquatic biodiversity can sustain from introduced or overabundant native species, without negative impacts on species diversity.
|Vegetation structure quality||• The number of layers required across a percentage of riparian vegetation EVCs.|
• The intensity and frequency of grazing pressure that riparian and aquatic biodiversity can sustain from introduced or overabundant native species, without negative impacts on vegetation structure quality.
|Landscape context||• The area of riparian zone supporting native vegetation.|
• Distance between mature trees.
Outcomes and strategic directions
Water resources deliver the agreed cultural, environmental, economic and social values now and for future generations.
Outcomes and strategic directions
Table 123 outlines long (20-year) and medium-term (6-year) outcomes for the catchment’s water resources. It also presents strategic directions for each long-term outcome. Please note, the outcomes are complimentary and consideration of all outcomes is required during implementation to achieve the vision.
Table 123: Desired long (20-year) and medium-term (6-year) outcomes for water and associated strategic directions
|1. Water is managed to ensure the right volume in the right place 100% of the time.||• High priority actions of the Victorian Environmental Water Holders seasonal watering plan are delivered annually 100% of the time, as relevant to the catchment.|
• Water extractions in dryland areas are managed to support the persistence of native fish and other aquatic species.
• 100% of water strategies incorporate Traditional Owner knowledge and priorities, and consideration of recreation and tourism industry priorities.
• Average Annual Damage (AAD) following floods has decreased by 50%.
• 90% of the irrigation delivery system is modernised.
• 60% of irrigated farms are redesigned to capitalise on, and align with, modernised irrigation delivery.
| • Ensure extractions, delivery and use of water is within ecologically acceptable tipping points, now and under a range of climate change and population scenarios. |
• Define agreed desired states and tipping points and the required adaptive management of water in light of climate change and population scenarios.
• Flooding risk is avoided, managed and reduced and community resilience to flooding is enhanced.
• Continue to improve efficiency and effectiveness of water for the environment by applying tight adaptive management and leveraging opportunities provided by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
• Complementary measures are undertaken to maximise the benefits of environmental watering.
|2. Meeting State and Murray-Darling Basin standards and targets is embedded in water quality management.||• The quality of water is managed to meet State and Murray-Darling Basin agreed standards and targets 100% of the time.|
• Streams with self-sustaining populations of native fish is managed so dissolved oxygen does not fall below 3 mg/L for 3 consecutive days.
| • Implement management actions that build the resilience of waterways to changing land use, climate and population. |
• Monitor water quality and ensure coordinated regional responses when levels are approaching unacceptable limits.
|3. Riparian, aquatic and wetland vegetation is healthy, provides for the many values and uses it supports and ensures the recovery and persistence of dependent biota.||• 70% of priority riparian zones and wetlands support native vegetation.|
• 100% of priority waterways have a measurable increase in percentage of riparian length protected.
• Reaches identified as severely depleted or highly depleted of in-stream woody habitat have a trajectory towards natural levels.
• 400 ha of riparian and wetland vegetation have a measurable improvement in quality.
| • Increase the extent and quality of riparian vegetation on waterways and wetlands. |
• Increase the extent and quality of aquatic habitat in waterways and wetlands.
• Increase the number of priority wetlands that can receive environmental water to improve their water regime.
|4. There is an increase in the diversity of the community and visitors engaged in building the resilience of water resources and health.||• A diverse range of the community and visitors are engaged and connected in projects to improve waterway health and resilience.|| • Broaden responsibility and engagement in waterway management to include all water users, including those living outside the catchment. |
• Build the partnership, awareness and skills of the broad regional community of the potential climate and population scenarios and the need to transition to a future with less water.
• Collectively build capacity, relationships and roles of all partners to ensure the integration of Traditional Owner values, aspirations and management actions.
|5. There is broad-scale understanding, support and agreement on sustainable water management across the water sector and stakeholders.||• Partnerships are formed and maintained with a range of water users to understand their values and make it easier to contribute and participate in water management.|| • Strengthen diverse community leadership, relationships and influence in water management decisions.|
• Adaptive management and sound knowledge (including local, academic, policy and traditional ecological knowledge) underpin water management decisions.
• All interest groups and governments agree on collaborative actions to transition to a future with less water.
Priority actions provide ideas and options for the future, rather than fixed work plans. The actions must evolve as the catchment changes and new information becomes available.
Tables 124-128 present priority actions for each long-term outcome as:
- Established actions, which are those currently occurring that we would like to continue. These include business as usual, recognised and existing practices. These actions are widespread and well-understood.
- Pathway actions, which are innovations that help us shift from the current situation to an ideal future. For example, experiments, bridging or transition actions that take place during the transition from established to transforming actions.
- Transforming actions, which are the way we want things to work in the future. For example, the new normal, visionary ideas and new ways of doing things to create change. There may be pockets of these already happening.
A combination of all 3 types of actions is required to achieve the vision for the future Figure 53.
Dividing actions this way is based on the Three Horizons framework and helps communities:
- think and plan for the longer-term by identifying emerging trends that might shape the future
- understand why current practices might not lead to a desired future
- recognise visionary actions that might be needed to get closer to a desired future.
Long-term outcome 1: Water is managed to ensure the right volume in the right place 100% of the time by 2040.
Table 124: Priority actions required to help achieve long-term outcome 1
|Action type||Priority actions|
|Established actions||• Seasonal watering proposals are developed to maximise the shared benefits from water entitlements, especially for the environment.|
• Deliver highest priority environmental watering actions from seasonal watering proposals annually.
• Continue to target priority waterways with environmental flows.
• Manage the timing and quantity of extractions from water bodies to deliver human needs, while minimising the impact on the aquatic environment.
• Aboriginal Waterway Assessments are used to identify cultural values, threats to those values and management actions required to heal Country and inform water management decisions.
• Bulk entitlements are managed inline with the Victoria’s Entitlement Framework ensuring distribution of water for various uses are formally reviewed at set times. Distributions are to be contemporary, support community needs and reflect values, such environmental, cultural, critical human need and agricultural changes.
• Increase access, awareness and knowledge of water use to inform water management strategies and decisions to facilitate more effective use of water across all uses.
• Grow and extend the development of property water budget plans that include soil water storage, evaporation loss and the impact on groundwater and local stream flows.
• Continue to improve efficiency and effectiveness of delivering water for the environment by applying adaptive management approaches.
• Continue to support water research that improves the management of water and the value it delivers, such as the Flow-Monitoring Evaluation and Research Program in the Goulburn River.
• Continue to incorporate new flood mapping and performance-based assessment criteria in local government planning schemes.
• Continue to build community resilience to flooding by working with key partners to increase awareness of responsibilities, reduce legacy issues, avoid increasing flood risk and manage residual risk.
• Implementation of the Victorian and Regional Floodplain Management Strategies.
• Establish clear and transparent processes about how water is used and shared for all water uses.
• Build understanding that the water system is highly modified and implementation needs to include improvement, maintenance and decommissioning.
• Renewal of the Regional Waterway Strategy.
• Invest in research to understand how climate change will shift rainfall-runoff relationships, inflow volumes and associated ecological change.
|Pathway actions||• Establish and communicate clear and transparent processes for how we prioritise water delivery, both in the catchment and beyond.|
• Develop all water plans and their implementation considering likely climate change scenarios, particularly exacerbated decline in runoff related to changes in rainfall and population.
• Water management is invested in consistently, not just during or immediately following crises.
• Define agreed desired states of waterways and floodplains and the water management requirements in light of climate and population changes.
• Constraints identified in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan are addressed to maximise environmental water delivery outcomes.
• Limitations on the effectiveness of environmental water are reduced.
• Develop and implement a water efficiency program for landholders.
• Build future climate change and population scenarios in all water and local government planning.
• Ensure water use in unregulated waterways is within ecologically acceptable limits, now and under a range of climate change scenarios.
• Increase the integration and flexibility of implementation programs to achieve multiple benefits and maximise shared benefits.
• Build the capacity of the system to absorb and respond to change with increasing redundancy options.
• Determine how to value the economic, environmental and social return from the diversity of water use.
• Water availability is estimated and communicated under predicted climate scenarios.
• Develop decision support tools to help make choices when trade-offs between systems or species need to occur.
|Transforming actions||• The true and total costs and benefits derived from water are factored into water management.|
• Waterways are managed toward an agreed set of community values (for example, supporting urban populations, Traditional Owners, agricultural industries, recreation and functioning aquatic ecology), not against fixed historical benchmarks.
• Technologies and practices are adopted to improve water use efficiency and manage changes in water availability, moving productive irrigated agriculture to double production levels with a third of the water from late 1990s levels.
• Management of water transfers do not have a negative impact on the ecological values of priority waterways, such as the Barmah Forest, lower Broken Creek and the Goulburn River.
• Environmental water is delivered to Goulburn River wetlands naturally.
• Planning and land use change requirements include available water and water use limits.
• Actively acknowledge what resources and areas are changing, and understand the emerging values and management actions required.
• Move species to more suitable thermal habitats.
Long-term outcome 2: Meeting State and Murray-Darling Basin standards and targets is embedded in water quality management by 2040
Table 125: Priority actions required to help achieve long-term outcome 2
|Action type||Priority actions|
|Established actions||• Maintain and enhance the surface water monitoring network to ensure it can assess the regions water quality against the agreed standards and targets.|
• Work with partners to deliver coordinated responses to water quality issues and incidents.
• Accelerate the level of riparian management initiatives to support biodiversity and reduce pollutants entering rivers, streams and wetlands.
|Pathway actions||• Build future climate, population and land use change scenarios in water quality planning and implementation.|
• Implementation of a monitoring approach to measure change in regional resilience.
• Advance knowledge of the potential impacts of climate change on water quality.
|Transforming actions||• Secure water resources to mitigate events that are likely to exceed water quality thresholds, such as black water or point source pollution events.|
Long-term outcome 3: Riparian, aquatic and wetland vegetation is healthy, provides for the many values and uses it supports and ensures the recovery and persistence of dependent biota by 2040
Table 126: Priority actions required to help achieve long-term outcome 3
|Action type||Priority actions|
|Established actions||• Non-native animal grazing is managed to maintain and improve priority river reaches and wetlands, such as the Barmah Forest Ramsar site.|
• A waterway maintenance program is a core part of waterway management, for example, follow-up weed control.
• Apply the DELWP climate adjusted planting guidelines to riparian revegetation.
• Strengthen programs to remove non-native grazing animals from riparian areas.
• Strengthen weed control works to target new incursions before they take hold and manage existing populations.
• Proactively implement complementary measures to maximise the benefits of environmental water for riparian, aquatic and wetland biodiversity, for example, pest plant and animal control prior to environmental water delivery.
• Continue to monitor native fish populations and implement evidence-based management.
• Refine stream frontage and vegetation programs to address maintenance and improve species diversity, structure and context.
• Continue to implement stream-frontage and wetland works with adjacent landholders to restore and maintain riparian vegetation.
• Continue to protect and improve the ecological character of Barmah Forest Ramsar site. For example, promote the restoration of Moira grass wetlands and colonial waterbird breeding opportunities in Barmah Forest Ramsar site.
• Improve native vegetation, waterbird, turtle and frog habitat at Horseshoe Lagoon, Moodie Swamp, Reedy Swamp, Gaynor Swamp, Loch Garry, Kanyapella Basin and Doctors Swamp.
• Engage with the livestock industry to help with the management and restoration of riparian vegetation.
|Pathway actions||• Widespread recognition that current waterway management will be challenged under climate change and different and sometimes difficult management decisions will be required.|
• Consider constructing a riparian vegetation program that has maintenance and improvement activities.
• Increase the understanding of ecological responses to environmental watering.
• Environmentally sensitive changes in how public and private land is managed.
• Support the development of mechanisms that credit private and public landholders and managers for ecosystem services provided to the community.
• Quantify and build awareness of the increased economic, lifestyle and health benefits from healthy waterways and native vegetation.
|Transforming actions||• Visitors and communities pay for and actively seek opportunities to reduce their impacts on the environment when visiting public land.|
• Land managers receive payment from users of native vegetation to support maintenance and improvement.
• The benefits of native vegetation are built into economic decisions.
• Revegetation programs are resilient under future climate scenarios.
• Metrics and tools are developed to support investment from the private sector into native vegetation management and restoration.
• Waterway management decisions consider climate change scenarios.
Long-term outcome 4: There is an increase in the diversity of the community and visitors engaged in building the resilience of water resources and health by 2040
Table 127: Priority actions required to help achieve long-term outcome 4
|Action type||Priority actions|
|Established actions||• Broaden engagement in waterway management to include all water users, including those living outside the catchment.|
• Strengthen relationships with Traditional Owners to increase participation at all stages of waterway management for environmental, cultural, economic and community benefits.
• Improve knowledge and awareness of weather forecasting services and provide information earlier to prepare for upcoming dry seasons and climate change.
• Expand the community flood report tool for at risk communities.
• Build the knowledge and skills of public land managers to use the community flood report tool to understand flood risks to public land.
• Identify and enact opportunities and obligations from the Taungurung Recognition and Settlement Agreement.
|Pathway actions||• Improve lifestyle landholder education about surface water storage, groundwater use and the impacts beyond their property.|
• Collectively understand and deliver on the aspirations, opportunities and obligations as part of the Taungurung Recognition and Settlement Agreement, Taungurung Water Plan and Yorta Yorta Joint Management Plan and Country Plans.
• Collectively build capacity, relationships and roles of partners to ensure the integration Traditional Owner values, aspirations and management actions.
• Quantify tipping point impacts of land and water use on available water and stream flows in a changing climate.
• Support and facilitate the adoption of integrated water management principles in new development through the planning system.
|Transforming actions||• Development enhances rather that detracts from waterway condition.|
• Traditional ecological knowledge guides management practices of water, riparian and aquatic biodiversity.
• A polluter pays principle in the fees and actions of water users in and outside the catchment is implemented.
• Visitors and communities pay for and actively seek opportunities to reduce their impacts on riparian and aquatic biodiversity, for example, camping fees for rubbish removal.
Long-term outcome 5: There is broad-scale understanding, support and agreement on sustainable water management across the water sector and stakeholders by 2040
Table 128: Priority actions required to help achieve long-term outcome 5
|Action type||Priority actions|
|Established actions||• Support community leadership development in water and NRM.|
• Build trusting relationships with the diversity of users, understand their values and make it easier for them to contribute and participate in the water industry.
• The catchment community is able to contribute to water policy processes influencing water management in the catchment e.g. review of the Goulburn Broken Waterway Strategy, Murray-Darling Basin Plan and Northern Sustainable Water Strategy.
• Broad participation in the Goulburn Broken Integrated Water Management Forum and implementation of the Goulburn Broken Strategic Directions Statement strengthens collaboration in sustainable water management and enhances urban landscapes.
|Pathway actions||• Build partnerships, awareness and skills of the community about the need to transition to a future with less water given potential climate and population scenarios.|
• Embed adaptive management, learning and negotiation into all water governance and management processes.
• The catchment community’s contributions to water policy processes result in positive outcomes for the catchment.
• Urban planning, population, agricultural, land use and climate change policies consider sustainable water management.
• Key interests groups in water management are represented in decision-making, particularly around access to water and/or public funds for water infrastructure, for example, agriculture, environment, Traditional Owners and so on.
• Sound knowledge (including local, academic, policy and traditional ecological knowledge) guides water management decisions.
|Transforming actions||• All interest groups and decision-makers have the knowledge required to make good, integrated and enduring water management decisions.|
• Community and government, at all levels and across industries, agree on collaborative actions and leadership to achieve sustainable water management.
• Water management enhances water security for humans and the environment.
• Vigorous and continuous public policy reform manages the often-competing water needs of cities, agriculture, regional communities, First Nations communities, rivers, wetlands and catchments under a changing climate.
Progress towards the water theme outcomes will follow the strategy’s evaluation and adaptation framework outlined here.
Catchment condition for water will be reported annually through state-wide indicators, as part of the Goulburn Broken CMA annual report:
- extent of protected or improved riparian land
- river flows
- extent of wetlands
- groundwater levels.
Monitoring tipping points
Tipping points for the water critical attributes will be monitored where possible:
- water availability
- water quality
- riparian and aquatic biodiversity.
References and further information
Barr N (2018) Socio-economic indicators of change – Goulburn Broken and North East CMA Regions [PDF 21.31MB], Natural Decisions Pty Ltd.
Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO (2019) Goulburn Broken Regional Weather and Climate Guide [PDF 2.40MB], BOM and the CSIRO.
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (2018) National Recovery Plan for the Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica), DAWE, Commonwealth of Australia.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (2020) Victoria’s Land Cover Time series, DELWP website.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (2019) Victoria’s North and Murray Water Resource Plan, DELWP, State Government of Victoria.
Goulburn Broken CMA (Catchment Management Authority) (2020) Shepparton Irrigation Region People and Planning Integration Committee – Critical attributes technical and risk assessment, Goulburn Broken CMA, Shepparton.
Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (2016) Shepparton Irrigation Region Land and Water Management Plan 2016-2020, Goulburn Broken CMA, Shepparton.
Goulburn Broken CMA (Catchment Management Authority) (2017) Water Quality Strategy Review, Goulburn Broken CMA, Shepparton.
Goulburn Valley Water (2019) Goulburn_Valley_Water_Annual_Report_2018-19 [PDF 7.25MB], Goulburn Valley Water, State Government of Victoria.
Goulburn-Murray Water (n.d.) Groundwater: what is groundwater, Goulburn-Murray Water website.
Native Fish Report Card (n.d.) Native Fish Report Card: Goulburn River, Native Fish Report Card, State Government of Victoria.
Papas P and Moloney P (2012) Victoria’s wetlands 2009-2011: statewide assessments and condition modelling [PDF 6.4MB], Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Heidelberg.
Tourism North East (2019) Activating Lake Eildon – Lake Eildon Masterplan – Draft Report [PDF 19.9MB], Urban Enterprise.
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