The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has completed a review of the Goulburn to Murray trade rule, following concerns about environmental damage to the lower Goulburn River from delivering unseasonal high flows of traded water to downstream users.

DELWP has completed the final step for the Goulburn to Murray trade review and the regulatory impact statement (RIS) process, with the Minister for Water announcing long-term trade and operating rules. You can read the Minister’s media release here. You can also view the notice of decision and statement of reasons on the Engage Victoria website.

The long-term rules are in effect from 1 July 2022 and seek to strike the balance of supporting trade that water users rely on without causing further environmental damage and respecting the health of the lower Goulburn River.

These new rules are the culmination of work commencing in 2019, which involved extensive consultation and working in partnership with Traditional Owners, river operators, scientists, and environmental waterway managers to assess options to improve environmental, bio-cultural, recreational and economic outcomes.

Information on the long-term trade and operating rules is available in this news item and in the fact sheets and frequently asked questions below. You can continue to find out real time trade opportunities here and using the Where can I trade tool.

These long-term rules build on the RIS undertaken in 2021 and include what we learnt from testing interim rules in 2021-22. We worked closely with Traditional Owners, waterway managers, scientists, river operators, recreational water users, irrigators, water market participants and the community to gather additional evidence to assess the impacts of interim rules on trade and river operations, as well as ecological, cultural and recreational values. Through 2021-22, this work included seven additional assessments:

  • River operations: delivering inter-valley trade and managing shortfall risks – Working through the Joint Venture and with an independent assessment of how we considered shortfall risks, we examined third party impacts and developed risk reduction measures to ensure trade rules do not create unacceptable risks.
  • Trade – We reviewed how trade opportunity under the interim rules was enabled and how water market participants interacted with the interim rule.
  • Ecological – A scientific advisory panel updated their assessment used for the RIS on risks and opportunities associated with the interim operating rules, with more of a focus on pulses and incorporating lessons from recent years of environmental monitoring.
  • Bio-cultural – Traditional Owners (Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Taunguring Land and Waters Council) assessed the impact of the interim rules on bio-cultural values.
  • Recreational – Geomorphologists used data to analyse the impacts of the interim rules on popular recreational sites.
  • Feasibility of delivering larger pulses – We worked with Goulburn-Murray Water to determine the feasibility of delivering larger pulses while a study into relocating in-channel irrigation pumps continues.
  • Tagged use – We assessed tagged use and trade behaviour in the Lower Broken Creek to propose an option ahead of the exemption expiring on 30 June 2022.

The findings of each assessment are summarised in the report below.

The complete analysis to inform the long-term decision can be find in the technical reports below.

Consultation and what we heard

The feedback that we received during the interim year and on the recommended refinements to the rules from key stakeholders, partner agencies and community members is consolidated in Closing the Loop Report – Interim Year and Final Decision, available below.

This report builds on what we heard through the Goulburn to Murray RIS process, summarised in the report below.

Submissions and survey responses that we received on the RIS are publicly available on the Engage Victoria website.

We would like to thank all those who made submissions or provided feedback as part of consultation throughout this review.

Enduring tagged water use regulations

In November 2021, the Minister for Water, Lisa Neville, announced that interim regulations restricting tagged water use in line with trade were to be made enduring, with the proposed making of the Water (Tagged Water Allocations) Regulations 2021. These regulations enable the restriction of tagged water use in line with allocation trade to keep a level playing field for all types of trade and prevent tagged water being used to get around trade limits.

An exemption from this restriction on tagged use will continue for the Lower Broken Creek, 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 or if trade and use patterns show an increasing risk before the review period

You can read more about tagged water use regulations here.

Interim Goulburn to Murray trade and operating rules tested in 2021-22

The Acting Minister for Water Richard Wynne announced that from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022 a two-part trade rule would be in effect for Goulburn to Murray inter-valley trade, matched to operating rules with lower and more variable flows. You can read the acting Minister’s media release here.

The interim rules were based on public consultation on the RIS, on changes to the trade rule as part of the Goulburn to Murray trade review. The interim trade and operating rules gave certainty for the 2021-22 water year, while further testing and analysis of complementary interim operating rules was undertaken.

Information on the interim trade and operating rules is available in this news item and in the fact sheets below.

Regulatory Impact Statement

The (RIS) consultation paper was released in March 2021. You can read the Minister’s media release here, and view the RIS consultation paper and attachments below.

Public consultation on the RIS included a mixture of online webinars, online drop-in sessions and small group face to face consultation undertaken in line with Covid-19 health advice. Recordings of some of these sessions are available via the links below.


  • Webinar: Agriculture Victoria webinar series – Goulburn to Murray trade and Murray delivery risks
      • Wednesday 24 March, 1:00pm – 2.00pm. To watch a recording of this webinar click here or use the recording below.

  • Webinar: Goulburn to Murray trade review – Lower Broken Creek
    • Thursday 8 April, 10.00am – 12.00pm. To watch a recording of the webinar click here.

About the RIS

The RIS identified options for operating rules that mean lower and more variable flows over summer and autumn, when the river would naturally be lower, and trade rules that match what can sustainably be delivered under the proposed operating rules without increasing delivery risks. The RIS also identified options for restricting tagging arrangements in line with allocation trade rules and further looks at options for restricting grandfathered tagged arrangements in Victoria.

Trade rule options were then refined after initial community consultation held in 2020. More information on this consultation period is available below. The operating rules proposed were developed based on scientific evaluation of the environmental risks for the lower Goulburn river (see links below).

As part of the RIS, infrastructure options were also assessed to improve outcomes in future under the proposed long-term operating, trade and tagging arrangements.

The RIS also looked at options for managing trade from the Goulburn system to the Lower Broken Creek, which is part of the Murray system. An additional consultation paper was prepared on these options and is available below. 

Additional technical attachments were also released alongside the RIS as key information for understanding the ecological tolerances of the lower Goulburn River. You can get a copy of the technical attachments to the RIS below.

The draft legislative instruments proposed as part of the regulatory impact statement are below.

Background to the review

To limit further damage in 2019-20 the Minister for Water announced three key actions in August 2019, to reduce the risk to the lower Goulburn River and to get future market settings right for Goulburn to Murray trade. These were:

  • an interim operational regime to achieve variable summer and early autumn flows in the lower Goulburn River (implemented from December 2019);
  • bringing all trade under the same rules so that use from a tagged account is subject to the same 200 GL inter-valley trade (IVT) limit as allocation trades (changes made on 12 December 2019); and
  • the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) beginning public consultation on changes to the Goulburn to Murray trade rule in early 2020.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has previously released a series of factsheets below outlining the findings from the first stage of the review, including the impact to the environment, the changes in trade rules and IVT deliveries and what to expect in 2019-20.

Initial public consultation was held between March and June 2020 on potential changes to the Goulburn to Murray trade rule, as well as on potential options for managing trade between the Goulburn and Lower Broken Creek. A closing the loop report summarising what we heard is available below.

In line with Covid-19 health advice, much of this consultation was held online, with a series of webinars available on the Engage Victoria website here.

A copy of the initial consultation paper on trade rule options and attachments are available below.