Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH)?
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) is an independent statutory body responsible for holding and managing Victoria’s environmental water entitlements and allocations.
In doing so, the VEWH helps to protect the environmental values of Victoria’s river systems and wetlands.
The VEWH works with catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water to ensure environmental water entitlements are used to achieve the best environmental outcome with the water that is available.
When was the VEWH established?
The VEWH was established on 1 July 2011. It was established through an amendment to the Water Act 1989, passed by the Victorian Parliament in August 2010.
Why was a VEWH established?
Environmental water management is becoming increasingly complex. The challenges are greater and the opportunities are bigger than ever before, for example:
- there are more extreme and unpredictable climatic conditions associated with climate change
- close coordination is required with other holders of environmental water entitlements, such as the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and partners in the Living Murray program
- continuing investment in water efficiency projects by the Victorian Government will result in more environmental water entitlements
- the water market and expansion of the water grid provide greater flexibility to manage environmental water.
In this increasingly complex environment, the VEWH will:
- act independently from, but be accountable to, the Victorian Government on decisions about environmental water
- benefit from the experience of the drought to undertake more flexible, responsive, coordinated and efficient use of environmental water
- ensure that Victoria’s environmental water is directed to our highest statewide priorities
- negotiate and coordinate with other holders of environmental water entitlements and allocations to maximise benefits for the environment
- abide by new legislative requirement that enhance accountability for the use of environmental water management and transparency of decision-making
- streamline administrative effort, because it is a single body responsible for managing environmental entitlements across Victoria.
What are the responsibilities of the VEWH?
The responsibilities of the VEWH are to:
hold and manage environmental water entitlements and allocations
- coordinate the delivery of Victorian environmental water entitlements and allocations with those of other environmental entitlement holders to maximise benefits to the environment
- ensure that environmental water management continues to become more efficient, while optimising benefits to the environment
- make adaptive, responsive and timely decisions about where and when environmental water is delivered
- examine opportunities for trading water allocations and entitlements, where this optimises benefits to the environment
- draw on the environmental watering priorities identified by catchment management authorities in consultation with their local communities, to identify the highest statewide priorities
- report on when, where, how and why environmental water entitlements and allocations have been used.
How does the VEWH operate?
The VEWH is comprised of three part-time Commissioners, supported by a small operations team.
There are statutory requirements around planning by the VEWH, including, the need to produce:
- a four-year corporate plan (including planned processes and strategies, associated funding arrangements and performance indicators)
- a seasonal watering plan (outlining the priorities for environmental water use, trade or carryover for the year ahead under a range of climatic forecasts)
- seasonal watering statements (outlining the decisions on environmental water use, trade and carryover as water becomes available throughout the year).
Each of these documents must abide by any Ministerial rules and will be publicly available. The corporate plan must be approved by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change. The Minister cannot direct on the content of the seasonal watering proposals, seasonal watering plan or seasonal watering statements.
How is the VEWH funded?
The VEWH’s funding comes from the Environment Contribution (EC), made by water authorities for sustainable water management initiatives; the EC has historically funded Victoria’s environmental watering program.
Do other jurisdictions have environmental water holders?
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder was established under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has a similar role and similar functions as the VEWH, but in relation to Commonwealth rather than State environmental water holdings.
Is the VEWH able to trade water entitlements and allocations?
The VEWH will examine opportunities for trading water allocations and entitlements, where this optimises benefits to the environment.
Temporary trade will be an important tool to assist the VEWH to meet its objectives, for example, by providing flexibility to deliver water across the State or sell allocation in one year and buy it in future years to meet specific environmental needs.
Visit the Carryover and Trade section of this website to find out more.
How does the VEWH decide where to use its environmental water holdings?
Decisions about environmental water use are informed by seasonal watering proposals put forward by catchment management authorities.
All river systems and wetlands that are in scope to be watered in the coming season will be included in the VEWH seasonal watering plan.
As water is allocated throughout the season, the VEWH will decide on its most appropriate use to get the best environmental outcomes. This involves taking account of climatic conditions, as well as coordinating with other environmental water holders to ensure the best possible benefits for the environment. These decisions will be communicated through seasonal watering statements.
Visit the Planning section of this website to find out more.
How much water does the VEWH hold?
The VEWH holds Victorian environmental water entitlements which will total a long-term average of about 600 billion litres, once all water recovery commitments are complete. These entitlements are known as the Water Holdings. The amount of water available under these entitlements in any particular year will vary depending on seasonal allocations.
The VEWH is well placed to make the most efficient and effective use of its environmental water holdings by coordinating with other environmental water entitlement holders and making adaptive decisions in response to changing seasonal conditions (e.g piggybacking on high flow events). In this way, it will achieve the best benefits for Victorian river systems and wetlands.
Will the VEWH buy water from farmers?
The VEWH is responsible for managing Victoria’s environmental water entitlements. The VEWH has not been set up to increase the Water Holdings by recovering water from irrigators, and any trading activity is expected to be modest.
How will the VEWH report on its activities?
The VEWH will be required to report on when, where, how and why environmental water is used. In doing this, the VEWH will make publicly available at its office and on this website:
- seasonal watering statements (outlining the decisions on environmental water use, trade and carryover as water becomes available throughout the year)
- an annual report (including information about its functions, powers and duties in accordance with relevant Ministerial rules).