The Snowy Mountains Scheme was designed to produce electrical energy, while in addition providing an annual, reliable source of water for agriculture in NSW and Victoria.

The scheme collects and stores water, including water that would otherwise flow south-east down the Snowy River, diverts it through trans-mountain tunnels and power stations and then releases it west of the Snowy Mountains into the River Murray and the Murrumbidgee River, where it can be used for town water supply, irrigation and environmental purposes.

The Snowy Mountains Scheme was designed to provide around 1,000 gigalitres of water to each of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee valleys each year. This annual supply of reliable, high-quality water enabled the expansion of irrigation development in the inland areas.

In 2012, the Commonwealth enacted the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to establish a sustainable diversion limit (SDL) in Basin rivers and to establish various environmental, water planning and sharing arrangements. Basin States are required (and have agreed) to implement Basin Plan arrangements through state Water Resources Plans.

The NSW DoI Water initiated the review on the Snowy Water Licence in June 2017, and the results of this work were released in the draft report ‘Ten year review of the Snowy Water Licence’ on 30 May 2018.  The report proposes a number of administrative amendments to the Licence, a plan to seek improvements to the delivery of environmental flows and water-use efficiencies, and improvements to how Snowy Mountains water resources are managed, including greater transparency.  The draft report recommended an expert panel to “independently carry out the performance review, the findings of which will feed into the final report”.

Alluvium in partnership with Garry Smith and Ross Carter was engaged to provide independent expert advice on the performance of Snowy Hydro and Ministerial Corporation in meeting the conditions of the Licence.  This work required expertise in compliance auditing and/or performance reviews, bulk water operations and the management of environmental flows.  This work involved reviewing and providing recommendations to the department on Snowy Hydro Limited’s and Ministerial Corporation’s performance in meeting the obligations under the SWL in accordance with proposal 21 of the Ten-year review of the Snowy Water Licence: draft report (2018).