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Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Strategy

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Regional Catchment Strategy 2013-2019

Strategic objective: To adapt to water policy reform

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What this will mean:  Water savings are generated for the benefit of farmers, the community and environment, and waterways and wetlands receive the right volumes of water at the right times.

Water's many uses, including irrigated agriculture, urban consumption, recreation and manufacturing, generate significant economic and social benefits to the Catchment. Waterways and wetlands are important in their own right and for underpinning a healthy water supply system. Water is becoming more valuable as demand increases in response to a growing population and as watering needs of waterways and wetlands are recognised.

Water conservation and distribution and stream management have significant environmental, economic and cultural consequences, with delivery of environmental water contributing to the condition of natural assets within and beyond the Catchment.

The unprecedented drought of 1997-2009, which created conditions that were more severe than the worst case scenarios considered in developing the Victorian Government's Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy (NRSWS) (DSE 2009), further sharpened attention on long-term, sustainable use of water. There is significant uncertainty about meeting all demands in a long-term climate that is expected to be hotter and drier (DSE 2012b).

The NRSWS aims to secure the region's water over the next 50 years, seeking to retain reliable water supplies and protect environmental values in a future with less water (DSE 2009).

Urban, agricultural and environmental water use continues to be high on the political agenda. The proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan seeks to set new conditions for managing and allocating water, with a focus on finding ways to maximise environmental outcomes while minimising negative impacts on communities (Burke 2012).

Large-scale salinity and nutrient management projects have been successfully implemented in the Goulburn Broken Catchment for well over two decades, consistent with broader Murray-Darling Basin strategies.

Australian and Victorian Government investments in projects such as the Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW) Connections Program (formerly known as the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project) and the Goulburn Broken CMA Farm Water Program are resulting in water being used and delivered more efficiently in irrigated agriculture, which in turn makes significantly more water, and better quality water, available for production and improving natural assets. These investments build on previous projects that emphasise "producing more with less".

The Connections Program and the Farm Water Program are large enough to fundamentally change the nature of individual farm enterprises and the way local communities function.

Water policy reform is wide-reaching, having significant implications for what land is used for and how it is managed, which reinforces the need for the strategic priorities listed under 'To adapt to land-use changes' to be considered simultaneously with those listed below.

The roles of partners in managing environmental water are expected to increase as much larger volumes become available, requiring joint approaches to identify fund sources and priority natural assets, while minimising risks to agricultural and recreational uses, landholders and towns.

Balancing the needs of all water users is a priority for this RCS, requiring all Catchment partners, including communities, organisations and individuals, to contribute to project design and implementation (Table 4).

 Table 4.  Whole-of-Catchment scale priorities to adapt to water policy reformform   

Context

Management measure

Water policy impacts on natural assets across all SESs, demanding a whole-of-Catchment scale response, particularly in regulated streams and areas of groundwater extraction.

All Catchment partners, including community leaders, have an important role in communicating their needs and priorities to inform water policy at local, Catchment and broader scales.

Strategic priority: Influence regional water policy

Influence water policy development and implementation to secure water for improving natural asset condition and social and economic wellbeing

The Agricultural Floodplains SES is especially sensitive to water policy shifts

Commonwealth and State Environmental Water Holders and delivery agencies are responsible for ensuring water is used to restore river and wetland health, providing the necessary volumes at the appropriate times to priority assets. This will be done considering impacts to agricultural and recreational users of water resources, including how these users may be at risk from increased environmental flow regimes.

Strategic priority: Deliver water to waterways and wetlands

Plan, deliver and monitor environmental water delivery to improve the condition of priority waterways and wetlands

This management measure is contexted in detail where it has special relevance, namely the Agricultural Floodplains and Upland Slopes SESs

There are opportunities for large-scale, multiple-benefit, water savings projects in the Agricultural Floodplains SES.

Strategic priority: Use water efficiently on farms

Refer to context and description of management measure in Agricultural Floodplains SES section