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Restoring flows on the Snowy river

The states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia are planning to spend A$300M (US$156M) to improve the Snowy river, by returning 28% of natural flow to the river. Reports say that nearly 9.9% of the Snowy river flow is diverted at the Jindabyne dam, reducing flows to a trickle. The proposed increase is to come from the more efficient use of irrigation water and other conservation measures. The project is phased over a period of 15 years.

Environmental groups welcomed the project and said more efficient water use in irrigation would also reduce salinity, a problem affecting some Australian farmlands. Farm groups have agreed to the project on the condition that the extra water comes from conservation and not by a reduction of their allocation.

The Snowy river, originating in Australia’s Southern Alps, was harnessed for hydro power and irrigation after 1949 by the Snowy Mountain Hydroelec-tric Power Authority. A series of 145km of interconnected trans-mountain tunnels and 80km of aqueducts collect and divert flows originating within an area of 8200km2. The Snowy Mountain Scheme has 16 major dams with a storage capacity of 7B m3, of which about 76% can be used for hydro power and irrigation. The scheme’s seven power stations, with a capacity of 3756MW, generate an average of 5100GWh of electricity each year — about 10% of the total energy consumption in New South Wales.