Snowy Mountains Scheme

From Academic Kids

Template:Current Australian COTF The Snowy Mountains Scheme is a massive water diversion and storage scheme, taking water from the eastern slopes of the Australian Alps (part of the Great Dividing Range) in eastern Victoria and southern New South Wales through pipes, tunnels and aquaducts into a series of dams, for use in hydro-electric power generation and irrigation in the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys.

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SnowyMountainsNSWTalbingoDam20050423a.JPG
Talbingo Dam.

The associated Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme is one of the most complex integrated water and hydro-electric power schemes in the world. Listed as a "world-class civil engineering project" by the American Society of Civil Engineers [1] (http://www.asce.org/history/landmark/projects.cfm); the scheme interlocks 7 power stations and 16 major dams through 145 kilometres of trans-mountain tunnels and 80 kilometres of aqueducts. The Scheme is in an area of 5,124 square kilometres, almost entirely within the Kosciuszko National Park.

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SnowyMountainsNSWTumut2PowerStation20050423.JPG
Tumut 2 underground power station.

The Scheme took 25 years to build, from 1949 to 1974, at an historical cost of AUD$1 billion, with a replacement cost today of more than $7 bn. It employed over 100,000 people from over thirty countries in its construction, providing valuable employment for a large number of recently arrived immigrants, and was important in Australia's post-war economic and social development. The Scheme built several temporary towns for its construction workers, several of which have become permanent: Cabramurra (the highest town in Australia); and Khancoban. Additionally, the economy of Cooma has been sustained by the Scheme.

The Scheme is the largest renewable energy generator in mainland Australia and plays a pivotal role in the operation of the national electricity market, generating approximately 3.5% of the mainland grid's power. The Scheme also has a significant role in providing security of water flows to the Murray-Darling Basin. The Scheme provides approximately 2100 gigalitres of water a year to the Basin, providing additional water for an irrigated agriculture industry worth about $5 bn per annum, representing more than 40% of the gross value of the nation's agricultural production.

Environmental concerns

The original plan was for 99% of the water of the Snowy River's natural flow to be diverted by the Scheme below Lake Jindabyne. Releases from the Scheme were only based on the needs of riparian users and took no account of ecosystem needs; it soon became known that the lower reaches of the river were in environmental crisis. An extensive public campaign led to the Snowy Water Inquiry being established in January 1998. The Inquiry reported to the New South Wales and Victorian Governments in October of that year, recommending an increase to 15% of natural flows. The two Governments were equivocal about this target. In 1999 the seat of East Gippsland was won in the Victorian election by an independent, Craig Ingram, based in large part on his campaign to improve Snowy flows. In 2000, Victoria and NSW agreed to a long-term target of 28%, requiring $375 million of investment to offset losses to inland irrigators. In August 2002 flows were increased to 6%, with a target of 21% within 10 years.

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