Victoria’s marine environments include open coasts, bays, inlets and estuaries. They’re home to a wide range of creatures, including plankton, fish, dolphins, birds, whales and plant life. Some animals are unique to our state, while others migrate to Victoria each year from around the world.

About our coasts

Victoria’s open coasts are dynamic environments that cover around 2000 km and extend up to 22 km offshore. They provide economic opportunities including fisheries, oil and gas extraction and shipping. Coastal waters also allow for social activities such as recreational boating. There's also a network of marine parks and sanctuaries, designed to protect Victoria’s unique bioregions.

Sometimes these competing needs can impact the coastal environment. Major threats include:

  • marine pests
  • pollution from catchment run-off
  • industrial activity
  • shipping
  • coastal urban development
  • climate change

EPA assesses licensed discharges into these waters. We also investigate any spills that may occur.

About Victoria’s bays and inlets, and how we work to protect them

Port Phillip Bay, Western Port Bay and Corner Inlet are our largest bays and inlets. These waterways have major social, economic and environmental value to Victoria. Many of Victoria’s marine protected areas are in these waterways. For example, marine national parks and sanctuaries, and Ramsar wetlands.

There are challenges in sustaining the health of our bays and inlets. These include:

  • urban and industrial development
  • industrial point source discharges
  • excess nutrient and sediment loads
  • pollutants
  • introduced species impacting biodiversity
  • climate change's potential impact.

Because our bays and inlets can be highly sensitive to these pressures, EPA works to protect them through our monitoring programs.  

How we work to keep Victoria’s estuaries healthy

Estuaries are coastal water bodies where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the sea. Estuarine environments are among the world’s most productive. Their sheltered waters support unique plants and animal life. They also provide resources and benefits such as food, recreational activities and sightseeing.

There are more than 100 estuaries in Victoria. These include small creek entrances to adjoining bays and complex lake systems such as the Gippsland Lakes. EPA regularly monitors the water quality of these lakes.

Estuaries are at the bottom end of catchments, so activities in these catchments can impact estuarine health. Many Victorian estuaries are potentially at risk from:

  • changes in land use
  • impacts from infrastructure
  • pollution events
  • nutrient and sediment loading
  • aquatic pests
  • climate change.

About our freshwater environments and how we work to protect them

Victoria’s freshwater systems are in a wide range of regions that have different climates and land environments; for example, desert plains and forested mountains.

EPA assesses licensed discharges into these waters. We also investigate any spills that may occur.

Why we must protect our rivers and streams

Rivers and streams drain water from surrounding catchments where we work and live. These creeks and rivers flow to our estuaries, bays and open coasts.

Our activities and land use in catchments can impact creeks and rivers down the catchments. The result of the impact on these environments are often immediate, serious and costly. Managing our catchment activities can minimise impacts and improve the quality of our water environments.

Why the health of our wetlands and lakes is important

Wetlands include natural waterbodies like lakes and billabongs. They also include human-built environments such as:

  • farm dams
  • sewage treatment systems
  • stormwater basins.

Wetlands are diverse ecosystems that provide habitats for unique plant and animal life, including migratory birds. Our wetlands also provide opportunities for recreational activities and sightseeing. The Ramsar convention recognises many Victorian wetlands as internationally significant.  

Wetlands act as filtering systems, removing sediment and pollutants from the water. Because of their small size and the amount of pollution that flows into them, many wetlands are prone to degradation.

About groundwater

Groundwater is water held in sediment and rocks below a catchment’s surface, often called an ‘aquifer’. It's an important ecosystem that many organisms live in and rely on. Many rivers and wetlands depend on groundwater because when it reaches the earth’s surface it flows into them.

Groundwater’s quality and quantity is important because of its interaction with other water bodies and its other uses, including:

  • agriculture
  • industry
  • human consumption.

Major threats to groundwater include:

  • overuse
  • pollution from human activity, leading to contamination.

Find out more about Victoria’s water

How EPA protects Victoria’s waters

How EPA monitors Victoria’s water quality

Recreational fishing and your health

Fish deaths

About water

About stormwater

About wastewater

Alternative water supplies and their use

Preventing water pollution: guidance for businesses

Reviewed 29 December 2020