How is groundwater managed?

Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) plays an essential role in the sustainable management of groundwater for local communities and the environment in northern Victoria.

The Minister for Water is responsible for the management of groundwater across Victoria.

In our part of northern Victoria, covering about one‑third of the state, GMW issues and administers groundwater licences and develops and implements management plans on behalf of the Minister.

Groundwater Management Units

Groundwater Management Units (GMUs) are defined areas where groundwater extraction is managed according to specific rules.

GMUs vary in size and are determined based on aquifer size, density of use and water corporation boundaries.

The two types of GMU are:

  • Groundwater Management Areas (GMAs): Areas where there is already significant groundwater use or potential for further use. GMAs are determined by GMW and managed using local management plans.
  • Water Supply Protection Areas (WSPAs): Areas that require intensive management due to risks to the resource from groundwater extraction. WSPAs are declared by the Minister and are managed using statutory groundwater management plans.

Use the map below to find out more about individual GMAs and WSPAs - hover over each section to see the current allocations, and click through to the relevant page for more information.

Management plans

Consultation is fundamental in developing management plans.

Statutory plans are developed by a consultative committee of groundwater users and stakeholder agencies appointed by the Minister.

Local management plans are developed by GMW in consultation with groundwater users and stakeholder agencies. Local water users and the wider community are invited to comment on a draft plan before it is implemented.

Both types of plan provide clear management rules for groundwater resources in an area.

Plan functions include:

  • Considering environmental water requirements.
  • Identifying local groundwater dependent values.
  • Preventing intense areas of groundwater use developing.
  • Describing how groundwater licence holders can maximise the use of their entitlements (including rules about groundwater trading, caps on entitlement, carryover and allocations where applicable).
  • Defining water sharing arrangements during times of water shortage.
  • Describing how monitoring, reporting and reviewing the plan are to be undertaken.

You can find management plans for each of the areas in the links on the left of this page.

Fact sheets

Water Use Compliance

Water is a precious and limited resource. It is critical to our economy, environment and communities. This is why water needs to managed fairly for all water users. GMW takes a zero-tolerance approach to water theft to ensure equity of access to limited water resources and protects those who are doing the right thing.

It’s illegal to take and use more water than allowed under your entitlement. Whenever a little more water is taken than is allowed, it can easily add up and there is limited water to go around.

Water theft affects everyone in your community and it is important that individual water users do not adversely impact other users or Victoria’s environmental values. Individual water users should make sure they have the right authorisations before they take water from a dam, bore, stream, river, creek or irrigation channel.

A zero-tolerance to water theft provides equity of access to limited water resources and protects those who are doing the right thing. If you see something, say something. To report an alleged breach/offence, phone us on 1800 013 357. 

For more information on compliance and enforcement at GMW, please see our Water Use Compliance page.