Sustainable water strategies
Sustainable water strategies set out long-term plans to secure the water future of Victoria's four regions: Western, Northern, Gippsland and Central. The strategies identify threats to water availability in each region and identify policies and actions to help water users, water corporations and catchment management authorities manage and respond to those threats over the next 50 years.
Four regional sustainable water strategies that cover the state were produced between 2006 and 2011. The first strategies completed were the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS) in 2006 and the Northern Region SWS in 2009. The Gippsland Region SWS and the Western Region SWS were completed in November 2011.
In addition to this implementation update, progress with implementation of the strategies has been documented in the DEPI annual reports as required under section 22J of the Water Act 1989.
Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy
The Northern Region includes Victoria's share of the River Murray, and its Victorian tributaries – the Kiewa, Ovens, Broken, Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon river systems. Major urban centres in the region include Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Shepparton, Bendigo, Swan Hill and Mildura.
DEPI, water corporations and catchment management authorities continue to implement actions from the Northern Region SWS following its release on 9 December 2009. Most actions in the Northern Region SWS have been completed or are of an ongoing nature. A number of remaining actions are linked to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which was signed into law by the Commonwealth Minister for Water on 22 November 2012 and sets new 'sustainable diversion limits' on water consumption in northern Victoria.
Key actions progressed in 2011–12 include:
- establishing the Victorian Environmental Water Holder in July 2011 (Action 7.2)
- reviewing water restrictions and permanent water savings measures (Action 8.4)
- continuing to review and refine carryover, spillable water account and reserve rules to ensure they are working effectively (Action 5.4)
- updating water corporations' water supply-demand strategies and drought response plans (Action 8.1)
- promoting greater indigenous involvement in water management by awarding three full scholarships to indigenous Victorians to study the Graduate Certificate of River Health Management (Action 9.1)
- coordinating stakeholder feedback, through the Victoria's Basin Plan Advisory Group, and providing Victorian input into the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (Actions 3.1 to 3.5, 7.1 and 7.3).
Given the close links between the remaining Northern Region SWS actions and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and the significant implications the Basin Plan will have on water management in northern Victoria, DEPI will undertake a stocktake of any remaining or ongoing Northern Region SWS actions to determine the best way to build them into the arrangements for implementing the Basin Plan, and in doing so, draw these actions to a close.
Read more in the Northern Region Sutainable Water Strategy.
Western Region and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategies
The Western Region and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategies were released on 10 November 2011.
The Western Region covers agricultural and urban centres including Colac, Port Campbell, Horsham, Stawell, Ararat, Hamilton, Warrnambool and Portland. River basins include the Otway coast, Corangamite, Hopkins, Glenelg, Portland, Millicent, Wimmera, Avoca and the southern half of the Mallee.
The Gippsland Region spans the area south of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria from the Latrobe River catchment and the Strzelecki Ranges, to the New South Wales border in the east. The larger urban centres within the region include Warragul, Traralgon, Wonthaggi, Sale and Bairnsdale.
The two strategies include a number of common policies and actions as well as region-specific policies and actions. Common policy themes include:
- recognising existing rights and confirming that permanent changes to existing entitlements cannot be made arbitrarily
- improving understanding of risks to water resources, including climate variability and uses of water that are outside the entitlement framework
- establishing local management plans to clearly document water sharing arrangements
ensuring the management of licensed groundwater use is better aligned with the characteristics of each groundwater system. Further information on the groundwater management program can be found in Groundwater
- encouraging existing water supplies to be used as efficiently as possible through a number of actions, and allowing more water to be allocated where it is available under caps and risks to third parties and the environment are low.
- protecting the region's environment, including setting precautionary caps on consumptive use in unregulated rivers
- greater involvement of traditional owners.
Highlights of the region specific policies and actions are set out below.
Land use change:
The Western Region SWS looked closely at the potential adverse impacts of significant land use change on water availability and set out a statewide framework for monitoring and managing this impact in resource stressed areas. Further information on land use change policy can be found in Western Region SWS technical reports. The legislative changes required to implement this policy will be included in changes being progressed by the Water Law Review (see below).
Improving information about domestic and stock use:
The action 'Requiring property owners to register new domestic and stock bores' was due to be completed by the end of 2012. The new requirements were to apply to new bores constructed after 1 September 2012.
This action will now be implemented in parallel with the review of the Water Act, which will result in a new Water Act for Victoria in 2014 (see below). Delayed to consider how these fit in the context of the Water Law Review and whether a change to the Act will ensure that it is developed and implemented in the most efficient and cost effective manner.
The action 'Improving information about domestic and stock dams' was due to be completed by the end of 2013. This action will also be implemented in parallel with the review of the Water Act.
Blue Rock Drought Reserve:
Since the release of the Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy, DEPI has been working closely with stakeholders to establish the drought reserve in Blue Rock Reservoir.
The drought reserve will provide entitlement holders on the Latrobe River system with access to additional water supplies in times of drought. In addition, more water will be provided for the environment in the Latrobe River through an environmental entitlement in Blue Rock Reservoir, and an additional share will also be made available for Gippsland Water and for irrigators on the lower Latrobe River.
The drought reserve is expected to be established in early 2013.
The Gippsland strategy also identified policies and actions to manage extractive industries and the impacts of mining on other groundwater users.
Progress on implementation will be reported in next year's annual report. Initial progress made since the release of the strategies includes:
- continuing to progress planning required to upgrade and refine the groundwater monitoring network (Gippsland Region SWS Action 3.8 (GR 3.8), Western Region SWS Action 4.9 (WR 4.9)
- significantly progressing the sale of growth water saved through the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline Project (WR 6.3)
- continuing to identify potential new groundwater management boundaries, which will progressively established over the next few years (GR 3.15, WR 4.1)
- commencing a program to monitor and track water use outside the entitlement (GR3.14, WR 3.4)
- updating water corporations' water supply-demand strategies and drought response plans (GR 4.8, 5.3, 6.6, 6.9, 7.3, WR 3.16, 7.2, 8.2, 9.1, 10.1)
- promoting greater indigenous involvement in water management by awarding four full scholarships to Indigenous Victorians to study the Graduate Certificate of River Health Management (GR 4.12, WR 3.24).
Water Law Review:
Reflecting the ongoing process of water reform over the last 20 years there has been an ongoing program of legislative amendment. There are also a number of current policies, including those set out in the sustainable water strategies that will likely require further amendments to the legislative framework.
Rather than pursuing further incremental amendments to the Water Act 1989 (the Act) increasing its bulk and complexity, there is an opportunity to undertake a comprehensive review of the current legislative environment.
The review will simplify the Act, streamline and update current legislation and reflect the government's water policies and programs, including Living Melbourne, Living Victoria and the Gippsland and Western Regional Sustainable Water Strategies. Although the review is comprehensive, changes are not expected to significantly impact on water users.
Examples of these include:
- amending the Water Act to include rights to alternative water sources, such as stormwater;
- providing the legislative framework managing the impacts of land use change
- providing clarity for users around the entitlements and allocation framework.
- limiting licence tenure to 20 years but require renewal unless there is a good reason not to
Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy
The Central Region includes greater Melbourne, and the urban centres of Geelong, Ballarat, Sunbury, Bacchus Marsh and parts of West Gippsland.
The Central Region SWS includes a series of actions and augmentations to meet the region's water needs for the next 50 years. The strategy was released in 2006, and updated in 2007 when the previous State Government released its Water Plan, in response to continued low rainfall across the state.
Most actions in the Central Region SWS have been implemented or are of an ongoing nature.
The government is focused on implementing the Living Melbourne, Living Victoria initiative, which aims to establish Victoria as a world leader in integrated water cycle management. The government has established the Office of Living Victoria to deliver key aspects of this initiative, including administering the Leading the Way – Living Victoria Fund and preparing Integrated Water Cycle Plans for Melbourne's four main growth areas and inner Melbourne.
Further information on the Living Melbourne, Living Victoria initiative can be found in Urban water.
DEPI will undertake a stocktake of any remaining or ongoing Central Region SWS actions to explain how they relate to the Living Melbourne, Living Victoria initiative and confirm how they will be drawn to a close.