Healthy Rivers & Nature

Sustainable Water Strategy

With the right leadership and planning now, we can make sure southern Victoria’s rivers have the water they need to thrive – well into the future.

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Right across southern Victoria, our rivers are in trouble. After decades of taking too much water from river and wetlands, many have been pushed to the brink of ecological collapse. Add the impacts of a hotter climate and even less water is now flowing through to the fish, birds, reptiles and native plants that rely on healthy rivers for survival.

To ensure our rivers have a future in a hotter, drier climate we need to be preparing now. But in the Victorian government’s new draft water plan, there’s no guaranteed water for rivers … just the leftover dregs after industries have had their fill!

A better plan is possible – one that supports healthy communities, wetlands and birdlife instead of private profits. We just need the political leadership to make it happen.

Stand up for healthy rivers

The Sustainable Water Strategy

The Victorian government’s Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS) deals with the next 50 years of water management for southern Victoria – a massive region supporting more than six million people. It includes the mountain streams of East Gippsland, rivers passing through major cities like Melbourne and Geelong, and the coastline of the Otways.

As Victoria’s population continues to grow, more water is being demanded from our rivers. But our climate is also getting hotter and drier as a result of burning polluting fossil fuels, and winter rainfall is declining – which means less water flowing into our rivers to begin with.

Already in the last 10-15 years, flows have dropped by as much as 21% in some areas. By 2065, projections show this could drop by a further 40%.


This is one of the challenges the SWS is meant to address. But instead of making sure our rivers have enough water, the plan pins their survival on one big ‘maybe’.

More water for rivers depends entirely on new ‘manufactured’ water supplies like recycled water and desalination plants being developed. The current plan looks something like this: If new sources of water come online and if other industries have had their fill and if there is more water available … then it could maybe flow through rivers.

On top of this, any water that’s saved for rivers will already be playing catch-up with the huge decline in river flows we will experience under a hotter, drier climate.

This is simply not good enough. Our rivers, fish and beloved animals like the platypus need their survival guaranteed, not a noncommittal maybe.

While the SWS will push our rivers to within an inch of death, profit-seeking corporations are let off the hook.

We should be having important conversations around how to transition to an economy that uses less water, but the plan leaves this out entirely. Industry is not asked to make any change – not to reduce their water use or to remedy the damage done to our rivers through years of exploitation.

Learn more about why the plan fails our rivers >>







A better plan for our rivers

The good news is there are 3 key solutions the government can implement to create a better plan that actually protects our rivers.

  1. Stop too much water being taken, which means banning new licences to extract water
    We know there will be population growth across our region, but this cannot result in more water taken from our rivers. We’ll need to get it from other sources: fit-for-purpose water treatment and efficiency.
  2. Targets to get our rivers flowing
    We have to do more than narrowly avoiding catastrophe. This means setting targets based on restoring the foundational conditions for waterway health, like connectivity from the channel to wetlands and floodplains.
  3. Guaranteed water for rivers
    The survival of our rivers can’t depend on yet-to-be-invented technological fixes happening elsewhere. Some of this should come from water that is being taken now – which means all water recovery and restructuring options need to be on the table.

A better plan can shift the way we manage water – and to influence a better future for our rivers and the wildlife that depend on them.

By showing our government how important healthy waterways are to Victorians, we can make sure they have the water they need to survive and thrive long into the future.

Stand up for your local river

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