A NSW Government website

Environmental flow management

Environmental reform and water recovery

Read about the initiative to recover environmental water for the Snowy and Montane Rivers.

The views from Jacks lookout in the southern precinct of Kosciuszko National Park, near Thredbo, offers scenic views of the Snowy River valley and Snowy River - Image credit: Murray Vanderveer

Environmental reforms to increase flows

The Snowy Water Initiative was established as part of the environmental reforms to the Snowy scheme to deliver the water recovery commitments set out in the Snowy Water Inquiry Outcomes Implementation Deed (SWIOID) 2002.  The SWIOID aims to improve river health by releasing environmental water in order to increase the flows into the Snowy, Montane (including the Upper Murrumbidgee), and upper Murray river systems through three programs:

  • Snowy River Increased Flow (SRIF) program
  • River Murray Increased Flow (RMIF) program
  • Snowy Montane Rivers Increased Flows (SMRIF) program.

‘Water for Rivers’ was the joint government enterprise established to develop water efficiency projects and other measures, including water licence purchases, to recover the water for the three increased flows programs. The Water for Rivers enterprise completed its task of securing the licensed water entitlements from the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Goulburn rivers in July 2012, following a total investment of approximately $1.2 billion

Water targets for Increased Flows program

Targets for the Increased Flows programs include returning the following average annual volumes

  • Snowy River – 212 gigalitres (GL), or 21% of the average natural flow
  • Murray River – 70 GL
  • Snowy Montane Rivers – up to the equivalent of up to 150 gigawatt hours of forgone electricity generation, which equates to up to 117.8 GL

Allocating water to Increased Flow entitlement

Each year, the water allocated to the recovered or purchased water entitlements in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers is used to provide water for the Increased Flows programs

These water allocations are apportioned between the Snowy and Murray Rivers in a 2:1 ratio, until the Snowy River receives 140 GL and the Murray River receives 70 GL. All further savings beyond this point are then allocated to the Snowy River

While more than 308 GL of water entitlements have been recovered for the Snowy River, this does not directly equate into volumes of water available for release into the Snowy River. Depending on water availability in any season, a licensed entitlement holder in the western rivers is allocated a proportion of their entitlement to use that year. In many years that may be 100 per cent of entitlement, but in drier or drought years that proportion may be significantly reduced. This means that the volume of water available may be significantly lower than the total of entitlements under very dry conditions.

A summary of the entitlements and allocations to the individual savings measures, the cumulative volumes that have been apportioned to the Snowy and Murray Rivers, and the volumes that were apportioned each year to repay the Mowamba Borrowings Account are shown in the Snowy Water Savings Summary Table - 1 March 2024 (PDF, 719.42 KB)