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About the region

The Macalister and Thomson rivers are tributaries of the Latrobe River. The Macalister flows into the Thomson near Sale. The Thomson joins the Latrobe shortly downstream, where it flows past the Latrobe wetlands (Sale Common, Heart Morass and Dowd Morass) before entering Lake Wellington. These rivers and wetlands have a range of environmental values and support irrigated agriculture, tourism and industry.

The Snowy River flows south from the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales and into Victoria and Bass Strait. Storages in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme are connected to the Murray and Murrumbidgee systems via a network of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts through which water from the Snowy is transferred to supply irrigated agriculture in the Murray–Darling Basin.

View the current seasonal watering plan for the rivers and wetlands that make up the Gippsland region:

Seasonal Outlook 2018/19

Water for the environment for the Latrobe, Thomson and Macalister systems is held in Blue Rock Reservoir, Thomson Reservoir and Lake Glenmaggie respectively.

The Thomson system receives a secure annual allocation which is available on 1 July each year, in addition to a share of the daily inflows to the Thomson Reservoir. In the Latrobe and Macalister systems, water availability depends on system inflows to Lake Glenmaggie and Blue Rock Lake. Most of these inflows occur in winter and spring, so annual allocations are usually known before the start of summer.

In all three systems, the VEWH will carry over water from 2017–18 into 2018–19. In the Macalister system, the carryover will be used to deliver priority flows in July and August, and we will rely on further inflows to provide sufficient allocations to meet high-priority watering demands later in 2018–19. In the Thomson and Latrobe systems, carryover water will be set aside to use in late winter and spring, by which time there should be morereliable estimates of seasonal allocations and the overall availability of water for the environment in all three systems.

The probability of exceeding median rainfall in the Gippsland Region in early winter 2018 is better than average, but it has been particularly dry during summer and autumn 2018 and the catchments are very dry. The catchments will need significant rain to saturate the ground
before there is any marked effect on streamflow. There will be high reliance holdings of water for the environment to provide critical-flow components until natural run-off and unregulated flows increase.

Current holdings of water for the environment are likely to be sufficient to deliver the highest-priority watering actions in the Latrobe, Thomson and Macalister rivers in the first half of 2018–19. A return to drought conditions may significantly limit allocations of water for the environment during 2018–19 and therefore deliveries of water for the environment later in the year will need to be managed to provide enough carryover to meet critical demands in 2019–20. Additional water for the environment may be sought via transfers from within the Gippsland system or from another region, if allocations are inadequate to deliver important environmental outcomes.

Under an average-to-wet scenario, there will be sufficient water to meet all identified potential watering actions for the Macalister, Thomson and Latrobe systems. High inflows will also boost Water Holdings for 2019–20. Under a wet scenario, the Latrobe wetlands may be filled with natural flushing flows that have not occurred on a large-scale since 2011–12.

Planning of water for the environment in the Snowy system is managed by the NSW Department of Industry, which consults the Victorian and Australian governments and stakeholder groups about water for the environment released to the Snowy River. The total volume for release and daily release targets for the Snowy River from May 2018 to April 2019 are set in place and daily releases will not vary unless flows increase the risk of flooding downstream.


Stories of success and reflections on past environmental watering activities and results
  • Adult Australian grayling from Thomson River, by Arthur Rylah Institute

    Case study: Giving threatened fish a brighter future

    Environmental watering over the last five years has initiated migration of the threatened Australian grayling to spawn in the lower Thomson River.

  • Lynton Hill on a tour of the Snowy River

    Better flows for the Snowy

    Watering the Snowy River aims to rehabilitate the river by moving sediment, establishing plants and boosting carbon.

  • Macalister River at Lanigans Bridge during low flows in winter, by Minna Tom

    Flushing waterholes in Macalister River

    Environmental watering in the Macalister River in 2015–16 provided habitat for plants and animals, including platypus.

  • Water testing, by David Stork, West Gippsland CMA

    First recorded Australian grayling breeding in Latrobe

    Watering in the Latrobe River in 2015–16 prompted first recorded breeding of Australian grayling.

  • Water sampling

    Testing breeding conditions for grayling

    Breeding conditions for the iconic Australian grayling in the Thomson River were tested in 2015–16.

  • Black Bream

    Rush control

    While the Latrobe River benefited from the delivery of autumn freshes - watering that exceeds the base flow, lasting for one or several days - in 2014–15, the lower Latrobe wetlands continued an all-important drying regime.

  • Helping Bass

    During 2014–15, 155,308 ML of water was delivered to Gippsland’s Snowy River, while an important project continued to investigate the relationship between environmental water and Australian bass populations.

  • Macalister River downstream glenmaggie

    Targeting migratory fish

    Work on a new environmental water management plan for the Macalister River began in 2014–15 as environmental water continued to target native migratory fish species, including the iconic and threatened Australian grayling.

  • Grayling

    Watering vulnerable grayling

    The Australian grayling – one of Victoria’s threatened fish species – continued to prosper in Gippsland’s Thomson River as a direct response to environmental watering in 2014–15.