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Below Lake Eppalock, the major in-stream structure is the Campaspe Weir, which was built to divert water to the Campaspe Irrigation District. It is no longer used for water diversion but is a barrier to fish migration. Gates on the weir provide some degree of control over the flow, but greater flow spills over the weir. The Campaspe Siphon, just below Rochester, is part of the Waranga Western Channel, which carries water from the Goulburn system to western Victoria. Water can be released from the Waranga Western Channel into the lower reaches of the Campaspe River, but the siphon is another barrier to fish migration when there is low-to-moderate flow.

The flow below Lake Eppalock is largely influenced by releases from storage and the operation of the Campaspe Weir and the Campaspe Siphon. The Campaspe’s major tributary (the Coliban River) flows through the three Coliban Water storages (the Upper Coliban, Lauriston and Malmsbury reservoirs) before reaching Lake Eppalock. Water for the environment is held and released from Lake Eppalock, with some limited ability to regulate flow further downstream at the Campaspe Weir.

Water for the environment is released from Lake Eppalock to support aquatic plants and animals in and along the Campaspe River. It can be supplemented by water for the environment delivered via the Waranga Western Channel at the Campaspe Siphon, which provides important flexibility to meet environmental demands in reach 4. Water for the environment is primarily used in the Campaspe River to improve the magnitude and variability of flow during winter and spring, but it is also used to deliver critical flow in summer and autumn that is not met or exceeded by operational deliveries. Primary flow measurement points are at Barnadown (reach 2) and below the Campaspe Siphon (reach 4).

Goulburn-Murray Water transfers operational water from Lake Eppalock or through Waranga Western Channel to customers in the Murray River and to downstream storages (such as Lake Victoria). These inter-valley transfers (IVTs) usually occur in summer and autumn and, depending on the rate of delivery, can either support or compromise environmental flow objectives. High IVT flows delivered at a time when the Campaspe River would naturally have low flow may reduce the amount of suitable habitat for juvenile fish, which rely on protected, shallow areas of water near the edge of the river channel. Sustained high IVT flows in summer can also drown recruiting streamside vegetation. Storage managers and the North Central CMA have been working cooperatively to enhance the positive effects and limit the negative effects of IVTs on native plants and animals in the Campaspe River. For example, IVTs are sometimes delivered in a pattern that meets summer low-flow and fresh requirements, thereby reducing demand for the environmental entitlement. IVTs have also been released in a pattern to support native fish migration from the Murray River into reach 4 of the Campaspe River without affecting delivery to downstream users.

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

Traditional Owners
Environmental water holder

System map

Environmental watering objectives in the Campaspe River

Fish icon
Provide habitat to help protect and increase populations of native fish

Facilitate recolonisation by native fish species (including trout cod and blackfish) that have been presumed lost
Landscape icon
Enhance the channel form and features, including deep pools and benches

Maintain the condition of suitable substrate to maintain ecosystem processes

Engage floodrunners, distributary channels, anabranches and backwaters
Plant icon
Maintain adult river red gums and increase the recruitment of immature trees

Maintain the extent and increase the diversity of streamside vegetation

Increase the extent of in-stream aquatic plants
Insect icon
Increase the diversity and biomass of waterbugs
Water icon
Maintain water quality in deep pools and prevent stratification in summer

Reduce the risk of low-oxygen blackwater events in summer
Platypus icon
Protect the resident platypus population

Environmental values

The Campaspe River below Lake Eppalock provides important habitat for several native fish species, including Murray cod, silver perch, golden perch, Murray-Darling rainbowfish and flat-headed gudgeon. Murray-Darling rainbowfish were presumed lost from the system during the Millennium Drought, but since 2011, they have been recorded at many sites on the Campaspe River and are now abundant below Elmore. Environmental flows help native fish migrate and disperse throughout the Campaspe system.

Platypus, rakali (water rats), turtles and frogs are also present along the length of the Campaspe River. The streamside vegetation zone is narrow and dominated by large, mature river red gum trees that support wildlife (such as the swift parrot and squirrel glider).

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

The Campaspe River flows through Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Yorta Yorta Country.

In planning for environmental flows in the Campaspe River in 2023-24, the North Central CMA met with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (trading as Djaara), the Taungurung Land and Waters Council and the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (YYNAC) to discuss how cultural objectives can be supported by water for the environment and the importance of Traditional Owner involvement in the management of water on Country.

The following meetings were held in early 2023:

  • the North Central CMA met with Djaara to discuss environmental water management in the Campaspe River in 2023-24. Discussions covered reflections on the previous water year, current conditions in the Campaspe River and how Djaara would like to input to planning in 2023-24 and beyond
  • the North Central CMA attended a YYNAC meeting to discuss potential watering in the Campaspe in 2023-24, potential cultural heritage impacts and how YYNAC would like to be involved in environmental water planning and management for the upcoming year
  • the North Central CMA attended a Taungurung Land and Waters Council Baan Ganalina meeting to discuss the 2022-23 floods and plans for environmental watering in 2023-24. Baan Ganalina members discussed with North Central CMA the Taungurung Reading Water Country program, including recent monitoring and collection of biocultural knowledge at seven sites on the Campaspe River. Through the Taungurung Reading Water Country program, Baan Ganalina has developed Taungurung cultural objectives for the Campaspe River. These cultural objectives recognise the interconnectedness of people and Country and the central role of Traditional Owners in speaking for Country. Regarding water management, Baan Ganalina emphasises the principle of ‘right way water: right time, right place, right amount’. ‘Right way water’ includes flows at varying and seasonally appropriate levels that reconnect backwaters, that maintain water quality and that do not damage cultural sites.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential watering actions in Table 5.6.1, North Central CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses, including:

  • water-based recreation (such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing and water sports)
  • riverside recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching, bushwalking, camping, cycling, duck hunting and picnicking)
  • community events and tourism (such as visitors travelling to canoe and kayak on the river)
  • socioeconomic benefits (such as diversions for irrigation, domestic and stock uses; local and regional economic benefits from increased visitation; ecosystem services [such as carbon storage, groundwater recharge and water-quality regulation]; lower salinity management costs and blackwater and blue-green algae risks for landholders; and contributions to community enjoyment, health and recuperation).

If the timing or management of planned environmental flows may be modified to align with a community benefit, this is acknowledged in Table 5.6.1 with the following icon.

Camping icons

Watering planned to support peaks in visitation (e.g. camping or other public activities on long weekends or school holidays)

There are many places along the Campaspe River where visitors like to camp. Aysons Reserve is a popular camping site near Elmore, and it draws hundreds of campers during school holiday periods. Where possible, freshes are delivered outside of peak visitation periods (such as the March and April long weekends) to ensure the flow is not too high for campers and water- related activities.

Scope of environmental planning

Table 5.6.1 describes the potential environmental watering actions in 2022-23, their expected watering effects (that is, the intended physical or biological effects of the watering action) and the longer-term environmental objective(s) they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological effects.

Table 5.6.1 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the Campaspe River

Potential environmental watering action

Expected watering effects

Environmental objectives

Winter/spring low flow (40-200 ML/day during June to November)

  • Increase longitudinal connectivity to allow native fish to access new habitats
  • Provide foraging opportunities across a wide range of habitats for female platypus to develop fat reserves before breeding
  • Maintain water quality by preventing pools from stratifying
  • Discourage terrestrial plants from colonising the lower sections of the riverbank and low benches in the channel
  • Maintain soil moisture in the riverbank to water established river red gums and woody shrubs
  • Help establish littoral vegetation1
  • Provide a variety and large abundance of habitats for high macroinvertebrate productivity supporting food webs
  • Greater-magnitude flows will facilitate:
    • long-distance movement by male platypus, especially in the August to October breeding season
    • greater movement of large-bodied native fish
Fish iconPlatypus iconPlant iconWaterbug iconWater drop icon

Winter/spring fresh(es) (one to two2 freshes 1,000-1,600 ML/day for two to five days during June to November)

  • Flush accumulated leaf litter from the banks and low benches to reduce the risk of blackwater events during high river flow in summer
  • Maintain soil moisture for established river red gum and woody shrubs (such as bottlebrush and tea tree)
  • Provide sufficient velocity to scour accumulated sediment from pools and scour biofilms
  • Maintain connectivity to allow native fish movement and to access new habitats
  • Encourage female platypus to select nesting burrows higher up the bank to reduce the risk of a high flow later in the year flooding burrows when juveniles are present
Fish iconMountain Stream iconPlatypus iconPlant iconWater drop icon

Summer/autumn low flow (40-50 ML/day3 at the Campaspe Siphon during December to May)

  • Maintain slackwater habitats for zooplankton and nursery habitats for native fish
  • Maintain the water depth and prevent stratification in deep pools in summer to maintain habitat for native fish and platypus
  • Inundate a variety of habitats to increase the growth of biofilms and support waterbug productivity
  • Allow platypus to safely move between pools while foraging, and ensure there is adequate food for lactating females
  • Reducing flow to 20 ML/day in reaches 2 and 3 in autumn will expose mudflats and encourage the recruitment of some fringing vegetation
Fish iconPlatypus iconWater drop iconPlant iconWaterbug icon

Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes of 100- 200 ML/day for two to three days during December to May)

Camping icon
  • Increase longitudinal connectivity to allow native fish to access new habitats
  • Wet submerged wood and flush fine silt and old biofilms to promote new biofilm growth and increase waterbug productivity for native fish and platypus
  • Facilitate the downstream dispersal of juvenile platypus in April/May to colonise other habitat areas
Fish iconPlatypus iconWaterbug icon

Year-round fresh (trigger- based, 50-200 ML/day as required)


  • the oxygen levels are below 5 mg/L
  • low or cease-to-flow river conditions
  • high water temperatures
  • Destratify pools and improve water quality (increase oxygen levels) along the river in reach 4, ensuring there is adequate oxygen to support aquatic animals (such as native fish and platypus)
Water drop icon

1 A greater-magnitude flow rate will wet a larger perimeter of the riverbank, supporting increased littoral vegetation.

2 A second winter/spring fresh may be delivered in the average and wet planning scenarios to further enhance the river conditions if required.

3 The reach 4 flow will target 40-50ML/day. However, a reduction in the flow to 20-30ML/day at reaches 2 and 3 maybe considered in autumn to expose the river’s mudflats and promote native vegetation recruitment. To achieve these two flow rate targets, water for the environment from the Goulburn River flow will need to be delivered to reach 4 at the Campaspe Siphon.

Page last updated: 01/12/22