How much water was available?

Are our storages full? Do we still have water restrictions? How much rainfall did we have? Were streamflows received above or below average?

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Conditions in 2017-18 were drier than the previous year, with below average rainfall received across most of Victoria throughout the year.

The below average July 2017 following on from a record dry June gave Victoria its second driest start to winter on record (after 1982). Rainfall during September was below to very much below average over much of Australia, and lowest on record for the Murray–Darling Basin as a whole. Learn more
Keys/Rainfall Key Created with Sketch. Very much below average Lowest on record Below average Average Above average Very much above average Highest on record RAINFALL KEY

Rainfall for 2017–18 was below average for most of Victoria, with the Corangamite area, north, north-west and east receiving 60%–80% of the long-term average. A small area near Lakes Entrance only received 40–60% of the long-term average. Some above average rainfall (100–120%) was received in the south-west, Alpine Region and north-central areas. Throughout 2017-18 temperatures were above average for most of the state, except in the winter months when Victoria experienced its coolest winter nights since 2006.

Rainfall deficiencies began to emerge in West Gippsland and adjacent parts of north-eastern Victoria in July 2017.

In 2017, Victoria experienced its driest winter since 2006. This is in direct contrast to 2016, when rainfall was above the 30-year average for much of Victoria.

Rainfall was below average across most of the State, and very much below average across the central and south-eastern districts. Parts of the western districts saw near average rainfall.

Victoria in spring 2017 was drier than average in the east but was close to average or wetter than average in western Victoria. Above average rainfall was received along the south-west coast and rainfall was very much below average in south-east Gippsland.

After the record wet start to summer 2017–18 the season ended with drier than average conditions in February. For the season, below and very much below average rainfall was received in the west and above average rainfall was received in the east. Many of BoM’s rainfall sites, including 7 with over 100 years of data, had their highest summer daily rainfall on record from the rain event at the start of December with most daily records broken on the 2nd.

Autumn 2018 was much drier and warmer than the previous year, with the lowest rainfall received since 2008 and this being the fourth warmest Autumn on record. Rainfall was below average over most of Victoria, with well below average rainfall in large areas in the north and east of the State.

The tropical Pacific Ocean remained in a neutral El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) state — neither El Niño nor La Niña until late November 2017 when a La Niña alert was issued by the BoM when tropical Pacific seas surface temperatures began to cool in late winter 2017.

BoM then announced in December 2017 that a La Niña event had been established when the tropical Pacific cooled to La Niña levels. This event was short-lived and weak, with the BoM confirming it had ended in March 2018. The weak and short–lived La Niña had relatively little effect on Australian rainfall patterns over the 2017–18 summer. However, it may have kept temperatures higher than average in southern parts of the country due to weather patterns being slower moving, and further south than normal.

An El Niño watch was issued in June 2018 when the tropical Pacific Ocean began warming. This watch continued through to the end of 2017-18.

The Indian Ocean Dipole remained neutral for 2017-18.

Overall, the total available volume of Victoria’s surface water, groundwater and recycled water in 2017–18 was 15,375 gigalitres, less than half the amount available the previous year.

Graph of the total water available


Most river basins had annual streamflow volumes lower than the previous year. Although the west of the state was dry with low streamflow, east of the state experienced closer to average conditions.

Total Victorian streamflow compared to the long-term average

Water Storage

Unlike the previous year where storages ended the year higher than they began, in 2017–18 Victoria’s total storage levels started the year at 8,505,602 ML (69% of capacity) and ended at 7,242,916 ML (58% of capacity).

Storage levels in Victoria’s regional reservoirs started the year at 7,372,024 ML (70% of capacity) and ended at 6,185,791 ML (58% of capacity).

Storage levels increased during autumn, reaching a peak of 80% of capacity in September, and declined slowly through the summer to a minimum of 56% of capacity by April 2017.

In 2017–18, Melbourne’s water storages started the year at 1,133,578 ML (63% of total capacity) and ended at 1,057,125 ML (58% of total capacity) after reaching a peak of 78% in October 2017. Melbourne’s water storage levels in 2017–18 were once again lower at the end of the year than they were at the start.

The first water order from the Victorian Desalination Project was made in March 2016 by the Minister for Water.

Rainfall Key Created with Sketch. Declining Stable Rising LEVELS KEY

Groundwater levels

(short term trend <5 years)

In the state’s GMAs in 2017–18, 14 were declining, the same as in 2016–17, 24 were stable, compared to 23 in 2016–17 and 1 GMA was categorised as rising, compared to 2 in 2016–17.

In the WSPAs in 2017–18, 6 were categorised as declining, 1 as rising and 4 stable, compared to 5 declining and 6 stable in 2016–17.

Water Restrictions

Urban water restrictions were only applied to 1 town in 2017–18, the same as 2016–17. Stage 2 restrictions were applied to Korumburra by South Gippsland Water in July 2018 and were removed in August. Stage 2 restrictions were then applied again to Korumburra by South Gippsland Water in March 2018 and were later increased to stage 3 in May. These restrictions remained in place in Korumburra until 30 June 2018.

This restriction is compared to 35 in 2015-16 and 450 at the peak of the Millennium Drought in 2007.

All other Victorian towns were subject to Permanent Water Saving Rules.

Number of unregulated streams on restrictions across Victoria


Hover your mouse over the circles to view the number of streams on restrictions for that month/year.

Fewer streams
on restrictions
More streams
on restrictions

Restrictions on the amount of water that can be diverted from unregulated streams: there were 94 streams subject to restrictions in March 2017, compared to 157 at the same time in the previous season.

Seasonal water allocations

The above-average rainfall in the first 6 months of 2016–17 helped to build reserves for some of Victoria’s systems for 2017–18.

Aside from a few systems in northern Victoria that had built up reserves, opening allocations announced in July 2017 were low for almost all systems. By February 2018, all systems in Victoria received seasonal determinations of 100% high-reliability water shares except for the Werribee and Bacchus Marsh district.

In northern Victoria, the Bullarook and Broken systems reached 100% allocation for low-reliability entitlement. The Campaspe system received a 55% allocation against low-reliability entitlements.

In southern Victoria, the Thomson–Macalister irrigation system received a 20% allocation against low-reliability entitlement.

Allocations for the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Product began with initial allocations of 37% which then reached and remained at 81% after February 2018. In the Coliban Rural system, entitlement holders had access to 100% of their entitlement for the entire year.