Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

The Hon. Phil Costa MP

NSW Water Minister

The Hon. Tim Holding MP

Victorian Water Minister

Boost to Snowy River flows

Joint media release
28 October 2010

Environmental flows in the iconic Snowy River will start ramping up next week after the finalisation of a deal between the NSW, Victorian and Australian Governments to provide an additional 24 billion litres of water this year.

The majority of the increased flows will commence on 2 November 2010 and last for about 10 days, simulating the high flows from the annual snowmelt that helped give the Snowy River its wild reputation before it was dammed as part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. There will also another volume of additional releases in April 2011.

NSW Water Minister Phil Costa and Victorian Water Minister Tim Holding said the States were on track to provide additional water to boost flows this year and every year after that, after the Australian Government covered the cost to Snowy Hydro of foregone power generation.

“The Snowy River is one of New South Wales’ most iconic rivers, and the Keneally Government is committed to maintaining vital environmental flows, even during the worst drought on record,” NSW Water Minister Costa said.

“Since 2002, 251 billion litres of environmental flows have been released down the Snowy River including the biggest ever single releases in February this year. Now, we are delivering on our commitment in partnership with the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments to further boost environmental flows.

“The additional 24 billion litres of environmental flows comes on top of 38 billion litres already set aside for environmental releases down the Snowy River this financial year – boosting total flows to 71 billion litres.”

Victorian Water Minister Tim Holding said the annual high spring flows would now be a feature of the Snowy River for years to come, with a spectacular cascade released from Jindabyne Dam.

“The Snowy River communities have waited 43 years to see this again, after the completion of Jindabyne Dam in 1967 saw the mighty Snowy reduced to less than 1 per cent of its original flows.

“Drought and a lingering water debt to Snowy Hydro unfortunately were keeping environmental releases at a minimum. Under this deal to repay the debt two years early, the Snowy River will now get its full environmental allocation this year and every year afterwards.”

“This is a great result for the environment and a great result for the Snowy communities that have fought so long and passionately to get their river back,” said Mr Holding.

Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities, said the initiative was additional to the $425 million already committed by the three governments to recover water and increase the flows in the Snowy River and the River Murray.

“Today’s agreement is a good example of how three governments and industry can work together to deal with significant environmental issues facing our rivers,” Mr Burke said.

“The increase in flows down the Snowy River has been achieved through the three governments working together to repay the Mowamba Borrowing Account and provide additional water for an immediate improvement of Snowy River flows.”

Background information:

  • Flows will begin on 2 November 2010
  • Increased flows will last approximately 10 days, with flows increasing from 80 megalitres a day to a peak of 3,000 megalitres a day.
  • The peak flow will be maintained for four days and slowly decrease back to 100 megalitres a day by 14 November
  • The Snowy River downstream of Jindabyne Dam through to the Victorian border is expected to rise between 1.2 metres and 1.4 metres
  • Landholders downstream of the Jindabyne Dam to the Victorian border are advised to take all necessary precautions with stock and property
  • Water users are advised to use caution and be aware of increased water speed and debris
  • There will be no public access to the dam during the flows for safety and security reasons
  • The safest and best vantage point to view the release will be from Dalgety.
  • A calendar of release rates is available at


  • The loss of flushing flows in the Snowy River since 1967 has resulted in the build up of sediment on the bed of the Snowy River.  These increased flows will scour the bed of the Snowy River below Jindabyne Dam, improving the quality of the in-stream habitat. The repayment of the Mowamba Borrowing Account also means that there will be more water available in subsequent years to further improve the condition of the Snowy River.
  • The Mowamba Borrowing Account represents water that was ‘borrowed’ from other users of the Snowy Hydro Scheme in 2002 to provide early environmental flows to the Snowy River.
  • Increased flows will be delivered in a manner consistent with the recommendations of the Snowy Scientific Committee.
  • The agreement will see the NSW and Victorian Governments supplying the water necessary to repay the Mowamba Borrowing Account. The Commonwealth Government will reimburse Snowy Hydro Limited, in recognition of the impact of this initiative on power generation through the Tumut and Murray power stations.