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Water for the environment is supplied to the Latrobe River from Blue Rock Reservoir on the Tanjil River. Blue Rock Reservoir also supplies water for irrigation, urban supply and electricity generation, and water for a paper mill in the Latrobe Valley.

The Latrobe River from Kilmany to the Thomson River confluence (reach 5) is a high-priority reach for delivering water for the environment because it contains endangered plant communities with good potential for rehabilitation. However, capacity constraints within reach 5 mean that some of the larger freshes required to meet environmental objectives in reaches 4, 5 and 6 cannot be delivered without flooding private land. Until this can be resolved, environmental flows will be managed to within- channel levels. Where possible, the flow in the Latrobe River is coordinated with freshes in the Thomson River to meet targets for the Latrobe River estuary.

Options to deliver water for the environment to the Latrobe River via the Tyers River may be investigated in 2023-24. These options include a physical transfer of water from Blue Rock Reservoir to Moondarra Reservoir via existing infrastructure operated by Gippsland Water or a temporary administrative transfer arrangement. Delivering water via the Tyers River would increase the proportion of the Latrobe catchment that could receive water for the environment without compromising outcomes in the main target reaches of the Latrobe River. If adopted, these options are expected to benefit native in-stream and streamside vegetation and non-migratory fish within the Tyers River.

LaTrobe Pie Chart

Proportion of water entitlements in the Latrobe system held by private users, water corporations and environmental water holders on 30 June 2020

Traditional Owners
Storage manager
Environmental water holder

Environmental watering objectives in the Latrobe River

Fish icon
Increase native fish (migratory, resident and estuary) populations
Landscape icon
Increase in-stream geomorphic diversity
Platypus icon
Increase the extent of platypus and rakali (water rats) populations
Maintain the abundance of freshwater turtle populations
Plant icon
Improve the condition and increase the extent and diversity of submerged, emergent and streamside native vegetation. Reduce the extent and density of invasive plants
Insect icon
Increase the abundance of all macro- and micro-invertebrates
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Avoid adverse water-quality conditions (such as high salinity) in the lower reaches of the Latrobe River and its estuary

System map

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

The Gunaikurnai have had a continued connection to Country for tens of thousands of years, including with the waterways in the Latrobe system.

For the Gunaikurnai as Traditional Owners, there are immense challenges to heal, protect and manage Country, which has been drastically altered since colonisation. “As Gunaikurnai, we see our land (Wurruk), waters (Yarnda), air (Watpootjan) and every living thing as one. All things come from Wurruk, Yarnda and Watpootjan and they are the spiritual life-giving resources, providing us with resources and forming the basis of our cultural practices. We have a cultural responsibility to ensure that all of it is looked after” (Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap 2022 - Gunaikurnai Nation Statement). This cultural landscape is dependent on culture and Aboriginal management.

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) is working with the West Gippsland CMA to determine how to express Gunaikurnai objectives for water in a way that contributes to seasonal watering proposals from the perspective of Traditional Owners with traditional knowledge. GLaWAC has membership of the Latrobe Environmental Water Advisory Group (EWAG).

GLaWAC is working in partnership with the West Gippsland CMA to determine how cultural values and uses can be considered in planning for water for the environment. For the Latrobe system, this includes:

  • undertaking Aboriginal Waterways Assessments to examine cultural values and uses and incorporating the findings of assessments into the Latrobe Environmental Water Requirements Investigation
  • identifying primary objectives under the modified water regime
  • supporting approaches to water management that recognise and promote healthy Country
  • reinforcing the importance of the Durt-Yowan (Latrobe River) system to the Gunaikurnai creation story of Borun the pelican and Tuk the musk duck, and their water quality and habitat requirements
  • implementation of cultural resource management
  • waterways as meeting places, pathways and boundaries
  • preliminary accommodation of the water quality and management requirements of species with cultural values and uses.

GLaWAC is sharing its knowledge with the West Gippsland CMA around plant and animal species of cultural significance in and around the waterways of the Latrobe Valley, and the importance of specific watering decisions to support them. Watering requirements to support cultural values and uses include:

  • timing the delivery of water for the environment planned in partnership with GLaWAC to support a seasonal flow regime and wet and dry periods that contribute to healthy Country
  • maintaining freshwater supply to Latrobe estuary, Dowd Morass, Sale Common and Heart Morass, and associated freshwater habitats as the lower Latrobe wetlands are an important resource for the Gunaikurnai
  • providing connectivity between reaches and onto floodplains to support dependent plants and animals with cultural values and uses of significance to the Gunaikurnai
  • maintaining water quality to support the health of native plants and animals with cultural values and uses of significance to the Gunaikurnai. West Gippsland CMA engaged with the GLaWAC Cultural Water Team on Durt-Yowan (Latrobe River) watering priorities for 2023-24, with engagement planned to continue in the 2023-2024 water year.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential environmental watering actions in Table 2.2.1, the West Gippsland CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses, including:

  • water-based recreation (such as fishing and water skiing)
  • riverside recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching and game hunting)
  • socioeconomic benefits (such as commercial fishing, tourism and improved water quality for domestic, irrigation and stock use).

If the timing or management of planned environmental flows may be modified to align with a community benefit, this is acknowledged in Table 2.2.1 with the following icon.

If the timing or management of planned environmental flows may be modified to align with a community benefit, this is acknowledged in Table 1 with the following icon.

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Watering planned to support water sports activities (e.g. water skiing)

The West Gippsland CMA plans the timing of releases of water for the environment so that they do not impact the lake’s water levels during water skiing events held between January and March.

Scope of environmental watering

The term ‘environmental watering’ refers to the active delivery of water for the environment to support particular environmental objectives by altering the flow in a river or the water level in a wetland. While other terms are also used to describe the delivery of water for the environment, ‘environmental watering’ is deliberately used here and in seasonal watering statements to ensure consistency in the legal instruments that authorise the use of water for the environment in Victoria.

Table 2.2.1 describes the potential environmental watering actions in 2023-24, their expected watering effect (that is, the intended physical or biological effects of the watering action) and the longer-term environmental objectives they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological effects.

Table 2.2.1 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the Latrobe River

Potential environmental watering action

Expected Watering Effects

Environmental objectives

Latrobe River (targeting reach 5)

Winter/spring low flow (620 ML/day during July to November 2023 and June 2024)

  • Wet benches to maintain habitat, support the growth of emergent macrophyte vegetation and limit the encroachment of terrestrial vegetation
  • Maintain oxygen levels in pools and maintain sediment (sands and silts) in suspension to prevent pools from filling and depositing on substrates, helping to maintain habitat for waterbugs, turtles, aquatic mammals and breeding substrate for river blackfish
  • Maintain longitudinal connectivity to allow movement/dispersal of native fish, turtles, platypus and rakali (water rats)
Fish iconMountain iconsPlatypus iconTurtle iconPlant iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Summer/autumn low flow (440 ML/day during December to May)

  • Maintain an adequate depth in pool habitat to support native fish, turtles, platypus and rakali (water rats) and submerged vegetation
  • Limit encroachment by terrestrial vegetation and support the growth of emergent macrophyte vegetation
  • Mix pools to maintain oxygen levels suitable for aquatic animals
Fish iconPlatypus iconTurtle iconPlant iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Summer/autumn river freshes (five to nine freshes of 980 ML/day for one to five days during December to May)

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Water-quality fresh (one-day duration):

  • freshen water quality in pools to support fish, waterbug and zooplankton communities
  • provide sufficient velocity to turn over and flush sediments (sands and silts) from pools, scour algae from hard surfaces and clean fine sediment from substrates, including river blackfish nesting habitats

Fish and vegetation fresh (three to five days duration):

  • objectives of the one-day fresh as well as:
  • wet benches to support the growth of emergent macrophyte vegetation
  • provide longitudinal connectivity (including over benches for Australian grayling) for native fish, platypus and rakali (water rats)
Fish iconMountain iconsPlatypus iconPlant iconInsect iconWater drop icon
Latrobe River (targeting reach 6)

Summer/autumn estuary fresh(es) (one to three freshes of 2,200 ML/ day for seven to 10 days during December to May)

Note: this is a combined magnitude with the Thomson River over the equivalent period; a contribution of at least 1,220 ML/day from the Thomson River is required

  • Upper estuary: fully flush with freshwater to support submerged vegetation, provide adequate oxygen levels for aquatic animals, transport silt, wet benches, and deliver freshwater to connected wetlands
  • Mid-estuary: partially/fully flush the upper layer of the water column to improve water quality, support emergent macrophytes, provide freshwater habitat and associated food sources for freshwater fish and provide breeding opportunities for estuary fish
  • Lower estuary: partially flush the upper layer of the water column; a flow of this magnitude will also provide opportunities to fill the lower Latrobe wetlands
Fish iconMountain icons Plant iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Page last updated: 01/07/22