Victoria’s water resources

Groundwater

Groundwater is the water that sits beneath the earth's surface in pores and crevices of rocks and soil. It is found in aquifers, which are rock formations that are able to store and pass on water. Australia has several different types of aquifers and the groundwater within these aquifers varies from drinking quality to saltier than the sea.

An important part of Victoria's water supply, groundwater amounts to roughly 15 per cent of the state's total water use. It is critical to creating secure water supplies to meet growing food and fibre production, for drinking water supplies and to protect environmental values.

Understanding groundwater

The majority of Victoria's groundwater is in the aquifers of five major geologic basins. These are the Murray Basin, Otway Basin, Gippsland Basin (including the Tarwin Basin) and Central Basins (Port Phillip & Westernport). Central Victoria is predominately highlands, with the five major basins flanking the highlands to the north and south.

Map of Victorian geologic basins

Map of Victorian gelogical basins highlighting the following areas: Gippsland Basin, Highlands, Murray Basin, Otway Basin, Port Phillip Basin, Western Port Basin, Water Bodies

Water entitlements

Under the Water Act 1989 (Vic), the Victorian Government retains the overall entitlement or right to the use, flow and control of all groundwater and surface water (water located above ground, for instance within lakes, waterholes, rivers, wetlands and dams) on behalf of all Victorians.

The water entitlement framework provides the basis for the management of Victoria’s water resources at three levels:

  • State Government – which retains overall entitlement on behalf of all Victorians
  • the Minister for Water – who is responsible for granting entitlements to water (including environmental entitlements) setting limits and caps
  • Rights granted to individuals.

The framework balances demands for water for human use (e.g. irrigation, industrial, town water supply, domestic and stock) the environment and other uses. It considers all surface water and groundwater resources for human use and environmental purposes at all phases of the water cycle.

Taking and using groundwater

In Victoria, water for human use is taken from aquifers under entitlements issued by the Victorian Government and authorised under the Water Act. While water is issued to individual users by the relevant water corporation via a groundwater licence, a licence is not needed for domestic and stock water use. However, a licence is required to construct a water bore.

Four water corporations are responsible for issuing groundwater licenses in Victoria:

Water trading

The Victorian water market enables people to trade (buy and sell) water entitlements and allocations. Prices and volumes of water traded are publicly available on the Victorian Water Register website.

Water trading enables available water resources to be used efficiently. It provides entitlement holders with an effective way of managing climate variability and reallocating water during a prolonged drought and times of scarcity.

More information on Victoria's groundwater and the water entitlement framework is available at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s website.