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The Broken River is a tributary of the Goulburn River, rising in the Wellington–Tolmie highlands and flowing north-west to Benalla and then west for a total distance of 190 km before it joins the Goulburn River near Shepparton. Lake Nillahcootie is the main storage on the Broken River. It is about 36 km upstream of Benalla and diverts water from the river to support irrigated agriculture. The main tributaries of the Broken River are Hollands Creek, Ryans Creek and Lima East Creek.

The upper Broken Creek is defined as the 89 km stretch of creek from Broken River (at Caseys Weir) to the Boosey Creek confluence near Katamatite. The creek is located on a flat, riverine plain and has naturally low run-off from its local catchment. It receives flood flows from the Broken River, although the frequency of these floods has been reduced by earthworks and road construction.

The Broken River and upper Broken Creek continue to be places of importance for Traditional Owners and their Nations. The Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) in the Broken catchment are the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Representatives from both RAPs were engaged during the preparation of Broken River and upper Broken Creek seasonal watering proposals.

System map

Environmental watering objectives in the Upper Broken Creek

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Mobilise built-up sand and clay material to restore deep pools and provide habitat for aquatic animals
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Enhance native fish populations including threatened Murray cod and golden perch by improving pool habitat and encouraging fish migration and spawning
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Support a wide range and high biomass of waterbugs to break down dead organic matter and support the river’s food web
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Improve in-stream and riparian vegetation
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Maintain water quality

Environmental values

The Broken River retains one of the best examples of healthy in-stream vegetation in a lowland river in the region. A range of native submerged and emergent plant species populate the bed and margins of the river including eelgrass, common reed and water ribbons. These plants provide habitat for a range of animals including small- and large-bodied native fish species. Murray cod, Macquarie perch, golden perch, silver perch, river blackfish, mountain galaxias and Murray-Darling rainbowfish all occur in the Broken River, and the river also supports a large platypus population.

The upper Broken Creek area is dominated by unique box riparian vegetation and remnant plains grassy woodland. It supports numerous threatened species including brolga, Australasian bittern, buloke and rigid water milfoil. It contains high-quality native vegetation, much of which is set aside as a natural features reserve. The creek supports a variety of threatened animals including fish species (such as the carp gudgeon, Murray cod, golden perch and MurrayDarling rainbowfish), as well as platypus and common long-necked turtle.

Both the Broken River and upper Broken Creek are listed as on the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.

Social and economic values

The Broken River and associated wetland and floodplain habitats support a range of recreational and tourism values, and they provide opportunities for bushwalking, boating, fishing and birdwatching. The waterways are an important source of water and a delivery mechanism for some stock and domestic and irrigation customers.

Conditions 2018

Flows in the Broken River between June 2017 and March 2018 met minimum-flow requirements. High-rainfall events delivered natural freshes via tributary inflows in winter, spring and summer, with peak discharges between 300 ML per day and 4,500 ML per day in the lower reaches (reach 3). Reach 1 received less water from tributaries and therefore had fewer freshes compared with downstream reaches. A large storm in early December 2017 generated an event with a peak discharge of 1,800 ML per day from Lake Nillachootie, which was the only natural fresh in reach 1 for the year. Water for the environment was 

used to deliver another fresh of 300 ML per day to reach 1 in autumn 2018. It was the first time an environmental flow had been delivered in the Broken River to meet environmental objectives.

Flows in the upper Broken Creek between June 2017 and March 2018 met minimum winter/spring flow requirements most of the time, while summer/autumn minimum-flow requirements were met less than half of the time. Four small, natural freshes occurred in winter, spring and summer, with peak discharges between 20 ML per day and 40 ML per day. This would have flooded a small proportion of the floodplain in reach 2 downstream of Waggarandall Weir. In autumn 2018, deliveries of water for the environment to Moodie Swamp helped meet the minimum-flow recommendation of 5 ML per day at Waggarandall Weir.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the upper Broken Creek system

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Summer/autumn fresh in upper Broken Creek (1 fresh of up to 50 ML/day for 10 days in December–May)

  • Maintain water quality, particularly in refuge pools

Summer/autumn low flows in upper Broken Creek (up to 5 ML/day for 30–60 days in December–May)

  • Maintain habitat for native fish populations and waterbugs 
  • Maintain platypus habitat 
  • Maintain in-stream vegetation

Winter/spring low flows in upper Broken Creek (up to 10 ML/day for 30–60 days in June–November)

  • Maintain habitat for native fish populations and waterbugs 
  • Support successful platypus breeding 
  • Maintain in-stream vegetation
Year-round low flows in the Broken River (up to 15 ML/day for 40–100 days)
  • Maintain hydraulic habitat for native fish, acquatic plants and waterbugs
Summer/autumn freshes in the Broken River (1 fresh of 400–500 ML/day for 2–5 days in December–May)
  • Scour sediment around large wood and turn over bed sediments 
  • Provide flow cues to stimulate native fish breeding and migration 
  • Replenish biofilms and increase productivity 
  • Maintain habitat for aquatic plants 
  • Maintain longitudinal connectivity for native fish passage

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, Goulburn Broken CMA considered and assessed the risks of environmental watering and identified mitigation strategies. Program partners continually reassess risks and mitigation actions throughout the water year.


Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations with which the Goulburn Broken CMA engaged when preparing the Broken system seasonal watering proposal.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term plans such as regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies and environmental water management plans and other studies. These plans incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longer term integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy and Goulburn Broken Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Broken system seasonal watering proposal


Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Broken Environmental Water Advisory Group (comprising community members) 
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office 
  • Goulburn Broken Catchment Wetland Advisory Group (with representation of Goulburn Valley Landcare, Field & Game Australia, Moira Shire, Greater Shepparton City Council, Turtles Australia, Parks Victoria, Trellys Fishing and Hunting and Kinnairds Wetland Advisory Committee) 
  • Goulburn-Murray Water * Murray–Darling Basin Authority (River Murray Water) 
  • Parks Victoria 
  • Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation 
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder 
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation