The Victorian Government introduced long-term operating rules for the lower Goulburn River on 1 July 2022. These rules set limits on the amount of water that can be transferred through the lower Goulburn River to the Murray River over the peak irrigation period, striking a balance between enabling delivery of traded water and avoiding further environmental damage. The rules provide maximum permissible delivery rates and minimum periods of low flow that vary across the irrigation period to ensure that the delivery of water through the lower Goulburn can occur in a more sustainable pattern.

pdfDownload PDF – Operating Rules for the lower Goulburn River (512 Kb)

Goulburn Operating Plan – Ensuring long-term commitment to operating rules

The Victorian Government has released a Goulburn Operating Plan for 2023–24 to ensure that water from the Goulburn IVT account is delivered within the sustainable limits set out in the long-term Operating Rules for the lower Goulburn River over the 2023–24 water year.

pdfDownload PDF – Goulburn Operating Plan for 2023–24 (598 Kb)

The Goulburn Operating Plan for 2023–24 has been developed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and Victorian river operators, and the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action.

The plan outlines the principles and responsibilities for decision making for the delivery of water from the Goulburn IVT account to the Murray system in 2023–24. The plan considers seasonal conditions and recognises the sustainable operating limits for summer and autumn set out in the Operating Rules for the lower Goulburn River. The operating plan also includes an operating outlook for the planned delivery of water from the Goulburn IVT account under possible climate and inflow scenarios in 2023–24.

The volume of water delivered from the IVT account will vary depending on seasonal factors including the volume of net trade from the Goulburn to the Murray system, water use in the Murray, the extent of unregulated flows in the Murray and Goulburn and levels in downstream storages.

This year’s operating plan is an ‘in principle’ agreement between Victoria and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority while long-term arrangements are developed that achieve an enduring commitment to adhere to the operating rules in the future.

pdfDownload PDF – FAQs Goulburn Operating Plan for 2023–24 (195 Kb)

The previous Goulburn Operating Plan for 2022–23 is available here.

History and background to the development of the Operating Rules for the lower Goulburn River

The operating rules were informed by the findings of an independent scientific panel who, in 2021–22 as part of the Goulburn to Murray Trade Review Regulatory Impact Statement process, assessed the risks and opportunities of a range of flow scenarios in the lower Goulburn to understand the likely environmental outcomes of possible future management frameworks.

Overall, the independent scientific panel reported that they expect the adopted operating rules to minimise further environmental damage, which was observed in 2017–18 and 2018–19 when large volumes of water were delivered to the Murray through the lower Goulburn River in sustained high flows over summer and autumn. The Panel also identified significant uncertainty as to how the rules will enable environmental recovery over time, and recommended further monitoring.

The operating rules were also informed by the findings of a bio-cultural assessment undertaken in partnership with Traditional Owners, as well as additional consultation and recreational assessments.

The operating rules work in parallel with the Goulburn to Murray trade rule to ensure that water allocation trade from the Goulburn system can only occur up to what can sustainably be delivered under the operating rules, mitigating further environmental damage and ensuring that trade from the Goulburn will not increase delivery risks in the Murray. You can find out more about delivery risks here.

A key change from the previous trade and operating rules is that delivery of water from the Goulburn Inter-Valley Trade (IVT) account no longer opens up new trade opportunity. This means that river operators have the flexibility to manage delivery of water from the Goulburn in a way that makes the best use of Victoria’s resources, without restricting trade opportunity. You can read more about the Goulburn to Murray trade rule review here.

The operating rules will be monitored so that changes to the rules can occur over time as new knowledge becomes available through ongoing environmental and bio-cultural monitoring and collaboration with scientists, environmental managers and Traditional Owners. Adaptive management will enable the operating rules to remain flexible and adapt to new information and on-going learning.

Some frequently asked questions and answers have been developed here that provide further information about the trade and operating rules, and a fact sheet has been prepared describing the features of the operating rules here.