SNOWY Hydro chief executive, Terry Charlton, recently confirmed that water was dumped into the already flooded Murray-Darling Basin, but said the authority had little choice (The Australian, December 15, 2010, page 7). A real time operational diagram, however, tells a very different story.
Last Wednesday, Snowy Hydro could have sent water into Eucumbene dam. At only 20 percent it had a storage capacity of a whopping 4 cubic kilometres of water.
Instead, the water managers set the trans-mountain tunnels so water was flowing away from Lake Eucumbene at over 80 cubic metres per second (6,912 megalitres for Wednesday).
Water was filling Talbingo and forcing releases from Jounama pondage into the already spilling Blowering Dam, threatening the township of Tumut and adding to the crisis along the Murrumbidgee River.
As if this wasn’t enough, the real time operational diagram for Wednesday December 8, 2010, shows that this water, drawn from Eucumbene, was also being used by Murray electricity generators pushing even more water directly into the Murray Darling Basin.
“Mr Charlton was incorrect in saying that generation was only from inflows below Eucumbene last Wednesday, although they were large at the time,” a source told me this morning.
“Why weren’t Mr Charlton’s water managers pushing the water back for storage into Eucumbene from the Tumut system,” he asked.
Tumut River residents were issued with urgent evacuation orders last Thursday after the increase in outflows.
Desperate farmers phoned Snowy Hydro last week asking why flood waters were being sent west, rather than east to Lake Eucumbene, given this dam was less than half full, but their calls were ignored.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme was built for the storage and diversion of water with hydropower generation as a by product.
Current and past employees claim that the current board and management are now driven almost exclusively by money.
“The management are setting the business up for sale when the NSW government changes next year,” said one source. “They want the balance sheet to look as good as possible so [we] are generating [power] like mad, even when electricity prices are low and irrespective of downstream impacts.”