The Minister for Water Lisa Neville has announced that from 1 July 2022, a new long-term trade rule will come into effect for Goulburn to Murray inter-valley trade. Read the Minister’s announcement here.

This is the final step in the Goulburn to Murray trade review and the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) process. The Victorian Government reviewed Goulburn to Murray trade and operating rules to make sure long-term rules strike the right balance of supporting trade that water users rely on without causing further environmental damage to the lower Goulburn River or increasing delivery risks in the Murray.

The new long-term trade rule matches trade to what can sustainably be delivered from the Goulburn – within operating rules that keep flows lower and more variable over summer and autumn.

The long-term rules are similar to what have been in place over the last year, with key refinements to improve trade and environmental outcomes and greater consideration of cultural and recreational values.

New Goulburn to Murray trade rule

The new long-term trade rule will replace the interim rule that has been in place over 2021-22. Trade announcements will be made on three key dates:

  • On 1 July – between 80 to 85 gigalitres (GL) of net trade opportunity will be released on top of reserves that need to be set aside to deliver legacy entitlement commitments to the Murray (around 140 GL) and water that can be used under tagged entitlements that remain grandfathered under the Basin Plan (around 15 GL).
  • On 15 October – up to 30 GL of additional net trade opportunity could be released, depending on how much water irrigators have used in the Murray over winter and spring.
  • On 15 December – up to 30 GL of further net trade opportunity could be released – again depending on how much water irrigators have used in the Murray in spring that year. At this time, in years where Goulburn seasonal determinations are not projected to reach 100%, any legacy or grandfathered tag commitments that no longer need to be set aside will be released to the market as extra trade opportunity.

From 15 December to 30 June - net trade will be capped to ensure the use of traded water over summer and autumn can be supplied within operating limits. Further trade opportunity will only be created when there is back-trade from the Murray into the Goulburn.

Under the new trade rule, a total of around 150 GL of trade opportunity is expected to be available under average conditions, an increase from 130 GL under the interim rule. This is a similar amount of trade to what occurred in 2019-20, and more than we saw last year when water traded back into the Goulburn.

Information on how irrigators are using water in the Murray and expected trade in October and December will be made available on the Victorian Water Register website. You can find out information about available trade opportunities here.

For more information on how the trade rule works see the fact sheet below.

Lower Broken Creek tagged allocation exemption to continue

Water users in the Lower Broken Creek will continue to be exempt from restrictions on water use from tagged Goulburn accounts over the next four years, while we monitor how water is used on the Creek. This acknowledges that water delivered to the Lower Broken Creek at current levels does not impact the health of the lower Goulburn River. A further review will be undertaken in four years to determine if tagged water use is pushing deliveries of water to the Creek above its capacity or impacting other water users. A review will be triggered sooner if trade and use patterns show an increasing risk before the review period.

Operating rules to keep flows lower over summer and autumn

The long-term operating rules have been revised and include an upper operating limit and a more variable flow regime, that delivers extended periods of low flow around 1,100 ML per day through summer and autumn, with three short pulses of up to 3,000 ML per day.

On advice from scientists and Traditional Owners, higher pulses (up to 6,000 ML per day) will not be used to support trade opportunity under the new rules. However, these types of pulses may occur if there is an identified environmental benefit to the river.

The operating rules are expected to provide improvements for bio-cultural values, with potential for longer term recovery with continued monitoring, adaptive management and two-way learning between Traditional Owners, agencies and scientists. An adaptive management framework will be implemented to ensure new knowledge identified through ongoing monitoring and collaboration with scientists and Traditional Owners can inform improved patterns of flows in the lower Goulburn River over time.

More information on the operating rules for the lower Goulburn River is available below.

Where to find more information

A summary report explaining what we learned through testing the interim rules in place during 21-22 and recommended rule refinements is available below.

You can find more information on the all the steps taken throughout the Goulburn to Murray trade review process, including the regulatory impact statement, what we’ve heard from the community and further scientific and technical analysis here.