As we watch countless megalitres of water being flushed down the iconic Snowy River to the noisy applause of environmentalists we need to question the wisdom of this release of otherwise productive water.
The building and commissioning of the Snowy Mountains Scheme changed Australia for ever; from a mostly British agricultural society to a multicultural industrial and growing Nation.
For both those desperately seeking to leave a war ravaged Europe and start a new life and the people of this vast, sparsely populated and then power starved country, the Snowy Scheme and the work and vision it offered, made both man and Nation.
The building of the Snowy Scheme was only possible because the Federal Government implemented it under the Defense Act which gave the Commonwealth control over State assets and the Act was left in place for several years after the end of WW2.
As a result it was built against powerful opposition from both State interests championed by the Packer Family Sydney Dailey Telegraph and by the Federal Opposition led by Robert Menzies.
But against this opposition and with the forceful arguments of the visionary politician Nelson Lemmon and the dedication of William Hudson and his team, it was built, commissioned and defined a Nation determined to prosper and succeed.
It is therefore most disappointing to see the gradual diminishing of its capacity to conserve water for later controlled release to the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers; as was always the original and most important consideration, being made of secondary importance to the production of hydro power and environmental waste.
The environmentalist lobby, using horseback riders in Akubras and Drizabones shouting for the television cameras “the Snowy must flow again,” totally drowned out rational debate on the Snowy and has led to a scam of waste of both water, generating capacity and money.
The facts in relation to the Snowy River are these.
The lowest and main dam on the Snowy River is Jindabyne Dam (690,000 megalitres), which is only forty river kilometres from its very source.
For the remaining 350 kilometres of its journey to the sea all of the Snowy’s tributaries are running totally unimpeded as they have always done.
These include the Moamba (small diversion weir on upper reaches), Rodger, Suggan Buggan, McLaughlin, Jacobs, Bombala, Delegate, Deddick, Little, Pinch, Buchan and Brodribb Rivers and 37 smaller creeks.
The natural flow of the Snowy River since the building of the Snowy Scheme is used thus:
The Snowy Scheme diverts ————————–17%
Stock and domestic including towns divert——— 1%
Irrigation use on the flood plains near Orbost——20%
The facts are that 62% of the natural flow of the Snowy River still flows to the sea as it always has and that irrigation extraction at the Snowy delta actually diverts more water annually than the Snowy Scheme.
When environmentalists claim that the Snowy Scheme robbed the Snowy River of 99% of its flow, this is only true of about 4 kilometres immediately below the Jindabyne dam wall and down to the Moamba River.
A walk down this steep boulder strewn reach of waterway should be enough to convince any rational person that increasing flows here is a total waste of water and money.
However it is true that because of the vagaries of Australian rainfall and the steepness of the Snowy watercourse, there are many times when the river is at very low levels and towns relying on its water are short of supply.
This can and should be rectified by the building of another dam or two on the Snowy and its tributaries, all providing more hydro power and securing an abundance of water for all users on its course.
We need to recognize that permanent dams store water in times of excess for release into the stream for the benefit of all species and users in times of drought and low inflows.
Dams enhance the capacity of our aquatic species to prosper in our variable climate, rather than what is claimed by city environmentalists.
To appreciate the totally irrational and wasteful course of action we are presently witnessing in the name of environmental flows down the Snowy, we should consider the following two scenarios.
If we release say one hundred thousand megalitres of water as an environmental flow from Jindabyne Dam into the Snowy River, it simply flows quickly to the sea, having no appreciable influence on the environment and produces no income for the Snowy Hydro, its shareholders or the Australian people.
If we release that same one hundred thousand megalitres from Jindabyne into Eucumbene and then into the Tumut River, here is what happens.
It first flows through Tumut One Power Station, and Snowy Hydro and their shareholders (NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth) make money from versatile clean hydro power.
It then flows through Tumut Two Power Station and the same entities make money again from the same water by sale of clean hydro power.
Our hundred thousand megalitres of water is now in Talbingo Dam, from whence it goes through the biggest power Station in the System; Tumut Three and yes the shareholders make money again from this same water.
Some of this water is then pumped back up into Talbingo from Jounama Pondage when there is unused power in the grid for the purpose of generating additional power when later released.
Our one hundred thousand megalitres of water is now stored in Blowering Dam for release as required for irrigators and domestic use down stream. When it is released from Blowering this water again generates hydro power and makes more money for the people of Australia.
When the water is diverted to irrigators the State now makes money from this same water as a sale to farmers or domestic users, but in the mean time it has been providing pristine, permanent habitat for aquatic species.
But even this is not the end of its use. Because there is always some drainage from irrigation fields and at times of storms this can be considerable, the State again gets income from a percentage of the original as it is resold downstream, possible to an end user in Adelaide.
In summary most water released to the Snowy River from the Snowy Scheme simple runs to waste for the most dubious of environmental claims with no return to the State. However water released to the Murray or Murrumbidgee rivers returns the State money from at least five sources. It then supports the jobs of those who produce and process our food and does far more in maintaining a healthy aquatic environment.
Banjo would not be happy with The Scam from Snowy River.