Vision: Healthy waterways and floodplains, managed for shared benefits

The Water theme focuses on surface and ground water resources, waterways (including wetlands) and floodplains. Water-dependent species, habitat values and management is considered. Refer Land theme or Irrigated Riverine Local Area regarding irrigation supply and systems and Biodiversity regarding threatened species.

The North Central CMA region includes four inland river catchments, the Campaspe, Loddon, Avoca and Avon-Richardson, that rise on the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range and flow northward emerging onto the wide, flat riverine plains of northern Victoria.

The catchments all form part of the Murray-Darling Basin, however average rainfall and streamflow is greater in the east of the region and declines across the basins moving from east to west. This influences the shape of the rivers and their floodplains, and the degree to which each river interacts with the mid-Murray River and its floodplain.

The region’s waterways, which include more than 100,000 km of streams and 1600 wetlands, have economic, environmental, cultural and social importance to Traditional Owners and regional communities.

Waterways and the plants and animals they support provide benefits to communities such as; water for drinking, irrigation and industry, as well as being a focal point for many recreation activities which in turn support tourism.

Victoria’s Water Plan, Water for Victoria, provides a framework to manage water for shared benefits – recognising social (including recreational), cultural, economic and environmental values. Our vision reflects this, to manage for shared benefits.

Waterways and water have significant value to Aboriginal people as recognised in Victoria’s Aboriginal Water Policy that was announced in Water for Victoria. The Traditional Owners engaged for this RCS identified many water-related cultural values and have strong aspirations for more involvement in water planning and management and for cultural flows. For more on this refer the Traditional Owner page.

Waterways and wetlands of the north central region

There has been significant change to irrigated agriculture in the region, over the past 20 years, with water traded out of the region, and major upgrades to delivery infrastructure to improve efficiency. For more on this refer the Land theme and Irrigated Riverine Local Area pages.

Through engagement for RCS renewal we heard from many people in the region who are passionate about their local waterways. Residents and visitors enjoy walking, cycling, fishing, canoeing and camping in and around the region’s waterways, they are important for wellbeing, and for the livability of urban areas. Waterways are important habitat, supporting a diversity of wildlife, they function as drought refuges, and movement corridors. Landholders and community-based NRM groups, make a significant contribution to protecting and improving the health of waterways across the region.

However our region’s waterways are particularly vulnerable to hotter and drier conditions predicted with climate change. As our region’s population grows, there are increasing demands on surface and groundwater resources, including for urban water supply and a growing number of small farm dams and bores associated with rural residential developments. In drier landscapes like the Western Dryland Plains Local Area, some tensions between uses are evident, and with reduced water availability overall, we anticipate sharing benefits will become more challenging in the future. It will be important to work together to raise awareness of water resource constraints and make the most of every drop.

The RCS Water Discussion Paper was drafted to frame conversations with stakeholders, obtain feedback and inform the development of this webpage. It includes more detail and references.