Groundwater Management

Who manages groundwater in Victoria?

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) is responsible for overseeing the monitoring and management of groundwater across the State. Certain groundwater licensing and management responsibilities in northern Victoria are delegated to Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW).

DEPI groundwater webpage:

How does GMW manage groundwater?

GMW is responsible for issuing and administering groundwater licences in northern Victoria in accordance with the Water Act 1989. GMW also develops plans which describe how groundwater is managed.

Download our fact sheet about Managing Entitlements to Groundwater in GMW’s region

What is a Groundwater Management Unit (GMU)?

A Groundwater Management Unit (GMU) is a defined area where the extraction of groundwater is managed according to specific rules (typically in a management plan). A GMU boundary can be based on a number of factors including aquifer extent and density of usage. The types of GMU are listed below:  

Groundwater Management Area (GMA)

A Groundwater Management Area (GMA) is an area where groundwater has been intensively developed or has the potential to be developed further. A local management plan is developed in a GMA to clearly document specific management objectives and describe water sharing arrangements that apply to all users in that area. 

Water Supply Protection Area (WSPA)

A Water Supply Protection Area (WSPA) must be approved by the Minister for Water. WSPAs require more intensive management and monitoring than a GMA generally due to there being higher risk of groundwater resource impacts due to groundwater extraction. A statutory Groundwater Management Plan must be developed in a WSPA to define available resources, management objectives and specific rules such as seasonal restriction arrangements, any limits on use, trading rules and carryover. The objective of the plan is to ensure groundwater resources are managed equitably and sustainably.  

Unincorporated Area

Unincorporated Areas exist outside of a Groundwater Management Unit (GMU) boundary. In the next few years all remaining Unincorporated Areas will be defined within a GMU and included within a local management plan.  

How does GMW develop a Plan?

Both local management plans and statutory management plans are developed with community and external agency involvement and consultation. The extent of stakeholder engagement will vary depending on the type of GMU and the issues and risk identified for an area. 

A Ministerially appointed consultative committee must be appointed to develop a statutory plan in a WSPA. A consultative committee is made up of members from DEPI, Catchment Management Authorities, Local Governments, Urban Water Authorities, groundwater users and local communities. Consultative Committees are responsible for developing a statutory plan for approval by the Minister for Water. The wider community is invited to comment on a draft plan before it is approved by the Minister for Water.

A GMW appointed Reference Committee or Reference Group is established to provide guidance and advice to the development of local management plans in GMAs. The composition of such a group is not mandated however the aim is to have a good representation of stakeholders present. Reference Groups operate in an advisory capacity to review and provide feedback on management proposals; however have no formal authority to approve a local management plan.

What is a Permissible Consumptive Volume (PCV)?

A Permissible Consumptive Volume (PCV) is the total licensable volume of water entitlement that may be issued within a Groundwater Management Unit. PCVs are set to limit adverse impacts from consumptive use such as over extraction of groundwater resource or reduction in groundwater contributions to rivers. Once the PCV has been reached, access to new licence entitlement may only be sought through permanent trade. 

How does a management plan benefit groundwater licence holders?

A management plan will document rules which clearly explain how groundwater licence holders can maximise the use of their entitlements. For example a plan may include rules about transferring licence entitlement, and contain arrangements that allow carryover of groundwater entitlement. Management plans often outline important water sharing arrangements during times of water shortage. The rights of domestic and stock users are recognised in a management plan.

Ultimately the aim of a management plan is to provide clear information about groundwater access for all users.

How does a management plan consider the environment?

A management plan considers the environment at a regional scale and establishes rules that take into account the environment's water requirements. Local environmental features such as wetlands are generally considered at a local scale as part of a licence assessment.

How can I find out more?

Click on the links below to find out more about each GMU (you can download a copy of a management plan, see news, updates and groundwater levels for each area) or contact GMW on 1800 013 357 for more information.