In Water a journey westward video (6:37) find out how the Snowy Hydro has mitigated environmental impacts and what measures are in place to ensure minimal environmental degradation in the future, thus ensuring the continued viability of this hydroelectric scheme.
WARNING - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.
Archive film - A dream, to harvest the waste waters of the Snowy Mountains. Water to generate power for expanding secondary industries. Water to pass through the mountain. Water to defeat Australia's greatest enemy, drought.
Narrator - Australia is characterised by exceptional climate variability. It is the world's driest inhabited continent, but it's also subject to flooding rains. By providing a guaranteed supply of water to Australia's dry inland, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme brought stability and security to these fertile areas, allowing them to prosper and develop. In 1949, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act was passed and construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme started on the 17th of October. The system of dams, tunnels and reservoirs are more complex than initially planned. The Scheme has 145 kilometres of interconnected tunnels and 80 kilometres of aqueducts, which collect and divert most of the inflows to the Snowy Mountains area. By providing a reliable supply of water, west of the Great Dividing Range, the Scheme assists in the production of multi billion dollar agricultural industry.
Archive film - This is the pay off, a prosperous countryside. The conversion of now barren lands to this. For the orchards and farms of tomorrow. Greatly increasing the present population with the plains, it will supply for many generations to come an ever increasing flow of fruits and vegetables, milk, meat, rice and other cereal. For this, the bulldozers roar in the gorges The rock-filled platter deep in the heart of the mountain. By 1960, the Snowy will flow inland.
Narrator - Snowy Hydro work collaboratively with landowners, local communities and national parks to manage water in the Scheme and catchment area. Water quality is important to Snowy Hydro because it relies on a healthy system for hydroelectricity and irrigation. Snowy Hydro is responsible for monitoring water quality and taking water samples regularly from the reservoirs and dams. Many of these dams and reservoirs are popular recreational sites in the local area. This is increased human pressure on the natural environment. National parks, private landowners, government and Snowy Hydro work together to manage and minimise environmental impacts and maintain water quality in the region. Regulation of the Snowy River has reduced flows to less than 1% of its original volume. The dwindling flows have left sediment to build up over the riverbed and smother habitat for aquatic plants and animals. Many of the rivers within the Snowy Mountains Scheme including the mighty Snowy River have also been significantly affected by other land and water management activities in the catchment. Vegetation clearing and grazing has caused major soil erosion problems in some areas, resulting in rivers siltation and weed infestations. The Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Governments are working to restore the Snowy River's mighty flows and the aquatic habitats they support. From the very first days of construction, the Snowy Mountains Authority recognised the Scheme would have a number of environmental impacts. Preventing harm to the environment as much as possible, became part of business as early as 1955, when the budget for soil conservation alone was 8 million.
Archive film - Counteraction against erosion in the Alps, centres on re-vegetation. To establish suitable plants on slopes, the movement of soil particles by surface erosion must first be arrested. Low fences, which are woven with pliable brush and brunches between pegs, were built across this bare slope, so that the water runoff is divided into many tiny trickles and any soil particles which may wash away will be deposited against these fences.
Narrator - Business and community expectations have evolved and changed over time. Snowy Hydro continues to make a positive contribution to the environment. Principally through its role as the single biggest provider of renewable energy available to the grid in South Eastern Australia. So what specifically are Snowy Hydro doing to minimise environmental impact? They are developing well-designed infrastructure, such as dams and power stations that are efficient and reliable. They employ skilled employees and labourers including engineers, environmental scientists whose roles are to protect the Scheme and the local environment. They also consult regularly with land and other stakeholders in management and collaboration. Snowy Hydro infrastructure adjoins national parks and private lands. Many different agencies and organisations are responsible for recreational management in this area. This is all very complex. Some questions you may be asking yourself, "What next? "What will the Snowy Scheme look like 50 years from now? "Will the Snowy Hydro Scheme continue "to benefit our environment as a source of natural renewable energy?" "Was this construction worth the impact on our environment?" These are all questions you might like to consider in more detail.
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