Snowy Mountains Scheme

26 December 1975 The Canberra Times 

The massive hydroelectric scheme of the Snowy Mountains incorporates 16 separate dams, 12 tunnels up to about 25 kilometres long, and seven power stations, two of which are underground.

The dams have enabled enormous man-made lakes to build up and these have become centres of holiday areas for camping, fishing and boating.

Lake Eucumbene alone holds many times more water than Sydney Harbour.

The possibility, of a hydro-electric system in the Snowy Mountains was considered as early as 1908, but it was not until 1949 that an Act of Parliament was passed to set up the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to begin the scheme.    

Twenty-six years later the scheme covers more than 5,000 square kilometres and has over 150 kilometres of tunnels linking it together.

In essence, the scheme diverts the flows of the Snowy River and its tributary, the Eucumbene, through the mountains towards the west, where they feed the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The water falls about 870 metres on the way, generating power as it goes.

The scheme and its maintenance are paid for by the sale of electricity and no charge is made for the final irrigation supply.

The two main developments of the scheme are the northern diversion - the Snowy- Tumut Development, and the southern diversion - the Snowy-Murray Development.

The Snowy-Tumut Development diverts the head waters of the Murrumbidgee River through a tunnel to Lake Eucumbcne.

From the lake, the combined Murrumbidgee and Eucumbene river waters are diverted through a mountain tunnel to the Tumut Pond Reservoir. There they are joined by water diverted through a tunnel from the Tooma River and the Tumut River.

The combined waters then flow through four power stations in the Tumut Gorge until they reach the Tumut River again and then flow to the Murrumbidgee.

The Snowy-Murray Development diverts the Snowy River waters at Island Bend Dam from where they are taken to Lake Eucumbene for storage or directly to the west by tunnel to the Geehi Reservoir.

With the waters of the Geehi River, the stored water flows through two power stations before being released into the headwaters of the Murray River.

Water is also pumped by surplus electric power in off peak periods from Jindabyne Dam into Island Bend and then flows through a tunnel to join the main east-west diversion of the Snowy-Murray Development.

Now complete, the scheme is a source of both power and water for irrigation in NSW, Victoria and, during dry periods. South Australia.