About the Snowy
The Snowy catchment is home to the Snowy Hydro-electric Scheme and the Snowy Mountains.
The upper catchments and half of the lower catchments of the Snowy River Basin are in south-east NSW. The NSW portion of the catchment area is 9,070 square kilometres.
Major towns in the catchment include Jindabyne, Bombala, Berridale and Dalgety.
Rivers and tributaries
The main tributaries of the Snowy River are the Eucumbene and Thredbo rivers, which join the river near Jindabyne.
Other tributaries include the Mowamba, Maclaughlin, Delegate, Jacobs, Pinch, Deddick, Buchan, Rodger and Brodribb rivers and Wullwye Creek.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme is the major water storage in the region.
Major water users in the catchment include Snowy Hydro, local councils, forestry and cattle grazing.
The regulation of flows in the Snowy due to the dam has resulted in significant declines in the aquatic biodiversity of the Snowy below Jindabyne, and Snowy montane rivers (Upper Snowy, Upper Murray and Upper Murrumbidgee rivers).
Several species living in the Snowy River and Snowy montane rivers have been identified as being of high conservation value, while others are of national environmental significance.
The NSW, Victorian and Commonwealth governments have agreed to annually release water to achieve ecological objectives in the Snowy River and Snowy montane rivers. These are typically provided in the form of several high flow, ‘flushing’ releases over the course of the year.
These releases for the environment are designed to be scouring flows which help to transport fine sediments down the river, altering the riverine condition and ecology. Over time, as some objectives are reached, the form of the environmental releases is likely to change.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme captures and stores water from rainfall and snow melts in the Snowy River basin. This water is used to generate hydro-electric power and provide water for towns and water licence holders, such as irrigators, in the Snowy, Murray and Murrumbidgee regions.
The scheme has significantly altered the natural flow of the Snowy River, affecting riverine health and water availability for Snowy landholders and communities. The NSW, Victorian and Australian Governments have agreed on measures to improve the health of the Snowy River. Sharing water fairly between the states, environment, towns and water licence holders is a key management issue.
Weirs on the river alter the natural flow regime, affecting riverine health and water quality, particularly water temperature. Erosion from land clearing also affects riverine health.