Managing extreme water shortages in Victoria – Lessons from the Millennium Drought

The dry conditions experienced between 1996 and 2010, often described as the 'Millennium Drought', brought about changes in how water is managed in Victoria.

The report Managing Extreme Water Shortage in Victoria: The Millennium Droughtis now available on the DELWP website. This documents the experiences of water managers across Victoria during the Millennium Drought, and highlights the lessons learned about water planning and management. The report provides an insight into how the Victorian water entitlement and water planning framework was strengthened to manage future dry climate conditions.

The report captures the steps taken to address low water resource availability and to ensure equitable, efficient and appropriate use of water. This includes changes to water resource management in all sectors (urban, irrigation, domestic and stock, and environmental), as well as investment in infrastructure, water efficiency and behavioural change programs.

Carryover

Northern Victoria

Carryover was introduced in the Murray and Goulburn water systems of northern Victoria in early 2007 as an emergency drought measure and under conservative rules to limit the amount that individuals could carry over.

After the initial success in 2007, carryover was made permanent later that year and extended to the Campaspe, Broken, Loddon and Bullarook water systems, effective in mid-2008, with a future review flagged to investigate ways to improve the rules for all water users.

A review of the carryover rules to give users greater choice in managing their water was conducted through the Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy. Analysis on the adoption of carryover to date (see report below) supported the proposal in the Draft Strategy for some limited changes to take effect in mid-2009, prior to completing a final review before 2010.

The limit on carryover was increased from 30 to 50 per cent of entitlement volume in 2009. The terms and conditions for carryover in 2009 are available below.

This proposal introduced the concept of the ‘spillable water account’, allowing entitlement-holders to retain their carryover when allocations reach 100 per cent so long as there is available capacity in the water storages.

After consultation, the final Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy committed to the implementation of these new carryover rules to overcome the limitations of the 100 per cent rule, and give greater flexibility to all entitlement holders to manage their water availability.

Following the deliberations of an Implementation Committee comprising key stakeholders, the new carryover rules for the Murray, Goulburn and Campaspe water systems were confirmed in 2010.

Carryover rules on the Broken, Loddon and Bullarook regulated systems currently remain the same as for the 2009 season. These systems, which have smaller storages and different inflow patterns, require more work to assess the additional benefit that spillable water account arrangements could provide.

Statistics and reports on the use of carryover in northern Victoria are available here.

pdfDownload PDF Terms and conditions for carryover_2008 (PDF - 417 Kb) which details the terms and conditions for carryover in these first two years

pdfDownload PDF NRSWS BR7A_Analysis of carryover options for Draft Strategy (PDF - 656 Kb)

pdfDownload PDF Terms and conditions for carryover_2009 (PDF - 656 Kb)

pdfDownload PDF NRSWS BR7C_Analysis of Carryover and Options Rights to Storage (PDF - 422 Kb) describes the broader analysis undertaken to support the final review of carryover options in the Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy.

pdfDownload PDF NRSWS BR7B_Proposal for future carryover arrangements (PDF - 422 Kb) was released to seek feedback on the proposed final carryover arrangements to be implemented for 2010.

pdfDownload PDF NRSWS Project Update 6_Carryover (PDF - 422 Kb)

Historical carryover reports and statistics

The reports below provide information on the use of carryover in northern Victoria this year and in previous years.

Northern Victorian entitlement holders started the 2010-11 season with the highest-ever volumes of carryover. Full details are available below.

pdfDownload PDF Carryover in northern Victoria in 2010-11 (PDF - 98 Kb) which provides a summary of water carried over on the Murray and Goulburn systems in 2009-10 and the full effects of the 100% limit after final seasonal allocations were announced.

pdfDownload PDF Summary of carryover in 2009-10 (PDF - 28 Kb) summarises the volume carried over into 2009-10 for all northern Victorian water systems.

pdfDownload PDF 2009-10 carryover statistics (PDF - 28 Kb)

pdfDownload PDF Carryover in northern Victoria in 2007 & 2008 (PDF - 28 Kb) summarises the volumes of water carried into the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons for all northern Victorian water systems.

Unbundling

Unbundling describes a major Victorian water entitlement reform which can be implemented in declared water systems. Unbundling involves separating the traditional entitlements of water rights in districts and take and use licences on waterways into a:

  • Water share: high-reliability, and low-reliability where people have had access to sales water;
  • Delivery share in districts, or extraction share on waterways
  • Water-use licence or water-use registration for non-irrigators

These changes provide greater flexibility to irrigators and diverters to manage their water use and their risks, through easier water trade and increased entitlement certainty.

Northern Victoria

Water entitlements on regulated water systems in northern Victoria were unbundled on 1 July 2007 when these systems became declared water systems. Water rights and take and use licences in the seven declared surface water systems were converted into new entitlements according to these conversion rules.

Southern Victoria

Water entitlements on the Werribee, Bacchus Marsh and Macalister/Thomson regulated water systems in southern Victoria were unbundled on 1 July 2008 when these systems became declared water systems.
Water rights and take and use licences in the three declared surface water systems in southern Victoria were converted into new entitlements according to the rules below. At this stage unbundling does not apply to groundwater, unregulated waterways or recycled water.