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About the seasonal watering plan

Water for the environment is water that’s set aside in storages such as dams and released or ‘delivered’ to help native plants and animals survive, thrive and reproduce. It also helps to maintain and improve waterway health needs such as connectivity, water levels and water quality.

The seasonal watering plan is a state-wide plan outlining where, when, and why water for the environment can be delivered throughout Victorian waterways.

The plan is based on trusted scientific evidence, including environmental requirements for certain types of water flows to trigger natural lifecycles, such as animals breeding or migrating, and forests regenerating.

The plan also provides the community with visibility of the potential deliveries of water for the environment, and how they've been planned to also provide benefits for cultural, social, economic and recreational values.

The plan is developed by the VEWH in close partnership with waterway managers – who engage extensively with their communities including Traditional Owners, storage managers, land managers, and scientists – to ensure a planning process that is informed by scientific understanding, local and cultural knowledge, and on-ground evaluation.

This robust planning process helps instil greater confidence in our decision making, on how to make the most of every drop of water available for the environment, for all likely climate scenarios, for the greatest environmental benefit.

The plan is a demonstration of the ongoing commitment of our program partners - waterway managers, storage managers and land managers - to achieve the best possible outcomes from water for the environment.

The annual seasonal watering plan is published on or by June 30.

Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

To ensure we are delivering water where and when it is most needed and achieving the best environmental outcomes for Victoria, we base our plans on local knowledge and rigorous science. Our annual seasonal watering plan is based on proposals developed by catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water, drawing from scientific river and wetland studies and community engagement.

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SWP cover 2023-24

Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

SWP cover 2023-24

Section 1: Introduction - Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

Section 2: Gippsland region - Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

Section 3: Central region - Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

Section 4: Western region - Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

Section 5: Northern region - Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

SWP cover 2023-24

Section 6: Further information - Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24

SWP cover 2023-24

Variation to Section 5.2.7 2023-24

SWP cover 2023-24

Variation to Section 5.2.6 2023-24

Previous Seasonal Watering Plans

This section contains the seasonal watering plans, associated variations and schedules from past water years.

Seasonal Watering Plan 2022-23

Seasonal Watering Plan 2021-22

Seasonal Watering Plan 2020-21

Seasonal Watering Plan 2019-20

Seasonal Watering Plan 2018-19

Seasonal Watering Plan 2017-18

Seasonal Watering Plan 2016-17

Seasonal Watering Plan 2015-16

Seasonal Watering Plan 2014-15

Seasonal Watering Plan 2013-14

Seasonal Watering Plan 2012-13

Seasonal Watering Plan 2011-12

Seasonal Watering Statements

Seasonal watering statements communicate decisions on environmental watering activities, and also authorise a catchment management authority of Melbourne Water to order and deliver water in the water holdings on behalf of the VEWH to achieve environmental outcomes. View the seasonal watering statements.

Changes to the seasonal watering plan

Under the Victorian Water Act 1989, we can only authorise use of water for the environment where it is consistent with a seasonal watering plan. This ensure transparency about what environmental watering is planned.

However, to also ensure flexibility to adapt to changing conditions, under the Act we can vary any section of a seasonal watering plan.

This could be to incorporate new knowledge or to address any circumstances not identified before the start of the financial year.

For example, in 2014-15 we varied the seasonal watering plan to revise the potential environmental watering in the Campaspe River in light of an updated scientific study of its requirements for water for the environment.

What changes don’t need a formal variation?

Changes that don't require a variation to the seasonal watering plan include:

  • minor operational adjustments to specific watering actions
  • using the water to manage environmental emergencies
  • using small volumes of environmental water for technical investigations
  • facilitating water deliveries held by other water holders for downstream objectives.

Minor operational adjustments

Minor operational adjustments to environmental watering occurs from time to time. For example, the stretches of river being targeted, water flow rates, timing and durations in the plan might change slightly due to changes in predicted rainfall or other water orders, or infrastructure constraints. In all cases, environmental watering still aims to maximise environmental outcomes.

Environmental emergencies

Environmental water may be needed to manage an environmental emergency, such as reducing the impact of natural blackwater or bushfire events, preventing fish deaths or mitigating the effects of blue-green algae. Environmental water was used to increase oxygen levels in the Lower Broken Creek during the 2016 blue-green algae outbreak.   

It can also be used to smooth the transition to or from a high natural water event (for example, supplementing flows from rainfall with environmental water to provide a more gradual rise and fall to minimise reduce river banks slumping and erosion).

Small technical investigations

Small volumes of environmental water can be used for research and development. If this happens the project must aim to enhance knowledge and improve environmental water management. It can't compromise achieving the environmental objectives in the seasonal watering plan.

Facilitating water deliveries

Some water held by other environmental water holders (such as the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority  is stored in Victorian storages and is sometimes called on to meet the needs of plants and animals downstream beyond the scope of this plan (such as the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region in South Australia).

We facilitate and authorise water deliveries, provided they don't have adverse impacts on Victoria's rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

The planning process

Each year waterway managers scope potential environmental watering for their regions for the coming year in seasonal watering proposals.

The proposals draw on environmental flow studies, and longer term plans such as environmental water management plans and regional waterway strategies. The proposals also incorporate information and advice from local communities.

The seasonal watering plan is a collated summary of the proposals.

To the right you will see the different stages of planning.

We plan for seasonal variability

Objectives for water for the environment and water availability differs depending on seasonal conditions – drought, dry, average or wet to very wet seasons.

The scenarios to the right are a guide for us and waterway managers throughout the year to decide what environmental watering to go ahead with.

The potential environmental watering under each scenario is captured in the scenario planning section of the relevant system.

Planning process diagram

Who contributes to the seasonal watering plan?

Each year, waterway managers (Catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water) meet with community members to develop their regional seasonal environmental watering proposals for the coming year.

The level and method of engagement varies across the state, reflecting the different systems, watering actions and community groups.

In some regions, formal environmental water advisory groups give interested community members the opportunity to discuss environmental watering in their region or locality for the coming year. In other systems, engagement occurs one-on-one between waterway managers and interested people.

Land managers and storage managers also consider and endorse the seasonal watering proposals to ensure that watering plans align with land and storage management objectives and can feasibly be delivered.

The engagement activities by waterway managers are summarised in each of the regions.

Find out more about how communities are involved in environmental watering decisions by visiting the regional pages.


Implementing the seasonal watering plan

The seasonal watering plan scopes potential environmental watering for the coming year, but many factors influence how water for the environment is actually committed and delivered.

It is important that there is flexibility to respond to these different factors, as they can significantly influence the watering results.

For more details about implementing the plan including when we commit and authorise water for use, whether water managers can change their mind about watering and managing risks see the introduction of the seasonal watering plan.

Factors that influence water delivery

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River and system operations (such as unregulated water, catchment inflows, storage levels, other water users’ needs and potential delivery constraints)
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Ecological or biological factors (such as plant and animal responses to natural flows or temperature)
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Seasonal and catchment conditions and weather forecasts
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Water availability
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Risks associated with environmental watering (such as deteriorating water quality)

Page last updated: 30/06/22