Rivers, estuaries and wetlands
Rivers, estuaries and wetlands (collectively called waterways) are the lifeblood of many towns and communities. Waterways provide places to relax, holiday, exercise, fish, bird watch, hike and swim.
Healthy waterways support many environmental values such as native fish, riparian vegetation, important bird habitat, drought refuges and rare or threatened species.
Our waterways supply water for agriculture, as well as supporting important social values such as fishing, swimming and boating or cultural values such as Aboriginal heritage sites.
In 2009, the My Victorian Waterway survey was carried out with 7,140 Victorians taking part. The results offer an insight to community expectations, attitudes and behaviours regarding waterway management. Ninety-nine per cent of survey respondents had high aspirations for our waterways.
Nearly all participants (98 per cent) agreed that it is important for waterways to be as healthy as possible so they continue to provide for our needs and 99 per cent of respondents wanted healthy waterways in their areas.
Types of waterways
Rivers are defined here as major rivers, streams or creeks and their tributaries, and include the water, the channel and surrounding land, known as riparian land. Riparian refers to land or vegetation that adjoins a river, creek, wetland or estuary.
Estuaries are where rivers meet the sea and the fresh river water mixes with the salt water of the ocean.
The majority of Victoria's estuaries are brackish mouths of rivers and streams that flow directly into the ocean or into large marine bays (such as Western Port, Port Phillip Bay and Corner Inlet).
There are more than 100 estuaries in Victoria; 83 of which exceed one kilometre in length.
The definition of estuaries also includes coastal inlets (for example, Tamboon Inlet and Anderson Inlet), smaller bays (for example, Swan Bay and Limeburners Bay) and coastal barrier lagoons (for example, Jack Smith Lake and Lake Dennison). These inlets may also be classed as wetlands.
Wetlands are still-water environments, usually occurring where water collects in depressions in the landscape from either surface water or groundwater. Wetlands can include swamps, lakes and peatlands.
Some wetlands are dependent on groundwater for their existence; others depend on surface water run-off or large floods from adjacent rivers.
The 2013 inventory of Victorias wetlands recorded 23,739 natural wetlands covering 604,322 hectares and 11,060 artificial wetlands covering 170,613 hectares.
Some wetlands naturally have water in them all the time, whilst others naturally dry out for short or long periods of time.
Managing Victoria's waterways
The Victorian Waterway Management Program (see diagram) aims to maintain or improve the condition of Victoria's waterways to ensure they can continue to provide environmental, social, cultural and economic values both now and into the future.
The program comprises three main phases:
- strategy and planning
- implementation and monitoring
- evaluation and reporting
The program is a partnership between state government, regional agencies and authorities, other management partners (such as Traditional Owners) and local communities.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries is primarily responsible for oversight of the Program and establishing the state policy framework for waterway management. Regional implementation is led by the waterway managers (that is, nine catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water in the Port Phillip and Westernport region).