A River Recovering: Australia’s Upper Snowy River

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Originating on the slopes of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mainland peak, the magnificent Snowy River – immortalized in the 1890 poem “The Man From Snowy River” – flows through New South Wales and Victoria before emptying into the sea at Bass Strait.

But after the completion of the Jindabyne Dam in 1968, the upper Snowy, once so irrepressible and powerful, virtually dried up overnight. It succumbed, like many rivers during the dam-building age, to decisions that placed hydropower and irrigation development over river health. For the next forty years 1,200 million cubic meters of Snowy River water would be diverted inland.

Even in 1968 not all were prepared to sacrifice the river. For three decades locals along the Snowy were joined by a broader alliance of concerned citizens in a battle to return water to the river. Eventually, the Australian government and the states of New South Wales and Victoria agree, in 2000, to restore a fifth of the flow to the upper Snowy River. (See “A Groundbreaking Agreement to Save Australia’s Ailing Murray River.”)

Over the next decade $425 million was invested in irrigation water savings projects to return 220 million cubic meters of water back into the upper Snowy. The focus on distribution and on-farm water savings projects allowed water to be recovered without a substantial impact on the irrigation-dependent communities along the inland Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.”

Read more: National Geographic


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