Understanding flooding

Flooding is a natural part of the weather cycle and life in Melbourne, but it can have a big impact on our way of life. That's why we aim to minimise the risk to people, property and infrastructure. Find out why floods happen, our roles and responsibilities, and who we work with to manage flood risks. 

For flood emergency assistance call the Victoria State Emergency Service on 132 500 and for life-threatening emergencies call Triple Zero (000).

flooded street gutter

Why floods happen

Flooding can be caused by:

  • rivers and creeks bursting their banks (riverine flooding)
  • ocean tides above normal sea levels (coastal tidal and storm surge flooding)
  • sea level rise resulting from climate change
  • rainwater exceeding the capacity of drainage systems (overland flows or flash flooding).

Our region has an extensive network of drainage infrastructure. Drainage systems built for earlier development were not designed to hold the increased volumes of water we now have flow through our landscape.

Urbanisation means rainwater flows faster off hard surfaces instead of filtering into soils. This increases flooding along waterways and on low-lying land. Urbanisation and climate change will continue to increase flood risk as the intensity of rainfall events increases, severe storms become more common, and the sea level rises.

Our roles and responsibilities

View the latest flood recovery information to find out how we’re helping Victorians respond to, rebuild and recover from the floods that occurred in October 2022.

Coordinating flood management

As the region's floodplain manager, our role is to coordinate the development and delivery of the Port Phillip and Westernport Flood Management Strategy and drainage services in conjunction with local and state government agencies, emergency services, the insurance and private sector and the community.

Read the strategy


Constructed waterway: Kennedy Creek DS Section 34 - Fallingwater Estate

Maintaining the regional drainage network

Together with local councils we both play a vital role in managing most of Melbourne’s drainage network. We maintain the regional drainage network, such as large drains and stormwater infrastructure that connect with rivers, creeks and bays.

Learn about our drainage system


retarding basin with boardwalk

Managing infrastructure

We deliver drainage and other infrastructure projects such as retarding basins to minimise the impact of flooding by safely carrying stormwater away from built-up areas into rivers and creeks. 

Find out more


Monitoring flood data and undertaking modelling and mapping

We monitor waterway levels and provide flood prediction data to the Bureau of Meteorology to help them issue flood warnings.

We also undertake catchment and coastal flood modelling and mapping to help reduce the likelihood and consequences of floods.

See rainfall and river levels


Providing flood information and advice

We work with land developers to ensure new land developments don’t increase flooding risks or damage the environment. This includes reviewing planning permits to ensure all flood risks are included in the planning process.

flood level information


Assessing severity of flooding 

Flooding over road

There are many challenges with replacing or improving older drainage systems due to increased urban development. In many suburbs there is no space left to store storm water. Large scale works to expand the capacity of our drainage system are often costly and extremely disruptive to communities.

We therefore prioritise flood risks classified as extreme, based on their social, safety and economic consequences, and build infrastructure to reduce their severity and impact.


three employees having coffee

Boosting community preparedness

Alongside our partners, we help to raise awareness of flood risk and help communities prepare for floods.

Get prepared


Informing the design of new suburbs

We make sure new suburbs are better designed, with:

  • underground drainage that can handle frequent storms
  • planned overland flow paths like roads, channels and open spaces, which carry excess floodwater away from houses.


Managing flood risks together

four office workers viewing a report

Preparing for and managing floods is a shared responsibility. Together we have responsibilities for protecting people, infrastructure, assets, economic activity and the environment.

We work in close partnership with state and local government, business and the community to minimise the damage floods can cause to people, places and communities wherever possible.

Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES)

The Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) is the designated control agency for floods in Victoria. It is responsible for:

  • leading emergency preparation and response
  • provides emergency assistance when flooding occurs
  • delivering community awareness and education programs.

Bureau of Metereology

The Bureau of Meteorology is responsible for issuing flood warnings.

Emergency Management Victoria

Provides flood warning and alerts to the community via the emergency.vic.gov.au website and app.


Local councils manage the local drainage network, including street gutters and drains.

They are also responsible for:

  • Administering and enforcing planning schemes
  • Undertaking flood modelling and mapping of local drainage systems
  • Supporting local flood planning and coordinating local emergency planning
  • Supporting development of local community resilience

Check your local council website for further information.

Residents and community

Community members and businesses are responsible for understanding personal and local risks and being prepared for floods. Their responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining a good drainage system on their property including gutters
  • Understanding their local flood risk
  • Being prepared with an emergency plan to reduce risks where possible
  • Monitoring flood warnings and advice.


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