Campaspe Basin

The Campaspe River Basin occupies 417,914 hectares of north central Victoria. It extends 150km south from the Murray River to the Great Dividing Range and is 45km wide at the widest point.

Lake Eppalock
Lake Eppalock

Land and stream network

Agriculture in the Basin is characterised by the flat alluvial plains of the Murray Valley, the elevation of which rarely exceeds 200m above sea level. These plains meet the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range which make up the remainder of the Basin where elevation rises to almost 800 m at the southern boundary. The riverine plains of the north are extensive, and the only major variation in elevation is Mount Camel which peaks at 421 m on the central eastern boundary of the Basin.

The Campaspe River flows north from its headwaters in the Divide to the Murray River. Its principal tributaries are the Coliban River, Axe, McIvor, Mt Pleasant and Sheepwash Creeks. The Campaspe River experiences extreme variations in flow from year to year. 

The Coliban River contains the Malmsbury, Lauriston and Upper Coliban Reservoirs in the south, and flows north to meet the Campaspe River just south of Lake Eppalock.

Rainfall and surface hydrology

The climate of the Campaspe River Basin is fairly uniform, with hot summers experienced particularly in the north. The effect of the topographic variation of increasing elevation in the south is reflected in the higher rainfall in that area. 

Lake Eppalock Tower
Lake Eppalock Tower


The shallow aquifers predominant in the Basin are the sandy units within the Shepparton Formation in the North, the Quaternary alluvial deposits scattered in the central and southern zone, and the minor aquifer of Palaeozoic basement rocks throughout the southern part of the Basin, overlain in places by volcanic rock aquifers.

Underlying the more extensive Shepparton Formation is the Calivil/Renmark deep aquifer which is in the north and follows the Campaspe River valley north of Lake Eppalock. Bores drawing on this aquifer system are concentrated around Rochester, where the water is used for irrigation. The reduction in the hydraulic pressure in the aquifer caused by this development would also have the additional benefit of reducing the onset of regional land salinity for the Basin.

Most of the divertable resource is considered of marginal quality, while the minor resource is generally brackish. Groundwater is generally more saline in the central and northern sections of the Basin while better quality water is drawn from southern bores.

Land use

Agriculture dominates land use in the Basin. Dairying under irrigation is the most important agricultural activity in the area. Dryland farming produces cereal crops, beef cattle, lambs and wool, while farming under irrigation is popular for dairying and fruit and vine growing.

Most of the Basin has been cleared for agriculture; however significant forested areas remain in the Axe Creek catchment and on the southern hills. The town of Echuca, situated near the junction of the Murray and Campaspe Rivers, is the largest urban centre within the Basin. 

Campaspe water storages

The largest storage in the Campaspe River Basin is Lake Eppalock.  It is owned and operated by GMW, although Coliban Water has an active share. Coliban have an equal right to 18 per cent of the storage capacity, inflows, evaporation and environmental flow requirements in the Campaspe River downstream of the storage, whilst GMW has rights to the remaining 82 per cent.

There are four major water storages within the Campaspe River Basin. Situated in the south-east of the Basin on the Coliban River are three storages owned and operated by Coliban Water including;

  • Malmsbury: 18,000 ML
  • Lauriston: 20,000 ML
  • Upper Coliban: 31,500 ML

The Coliban system supplies water for domestic, industrial and commercial use, mainly in the Bendigo urban supply area as well as to irrigators in the area between Malmsbury and Bendigo. For Coliban Water storage information, please visit the Coliban Water website, opens in a new window.