Snowy science

Since it was constructed, the Snowy Mountains Scheme has affected the ecology of Snowy Mountain rivers and streams. Over time, steps have been taken to reverse some of these effects and improve the health of the Snowy, Murray and Snowy Montane rivers.

The Snowy Water Inquiry Outcomes Implementation Deed (SWIOID) 2002 is a legal agreement between NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth to carry out the requirements of the 1998 Snowy Water Inquiry and the corporatisation of the Snowy Scheme. The deed includes the water recovery targets for the Snowy, Murray and Snowy Montane Rivers Increased Flows programs.

Water recovery targets for the Increased Flows programs are:

  • Snowy River – 212 gigalitres (GL), or 21 per cent 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. This means up to 117.8 GL.

The department is required to assess ecological responses to the Snowy River and Snowy Montane River Increased Flows. The department established the Snowy Flow Response Monitoring and Modelling (SFRMM) program in 2000 to assess the changes in river conditions attributed to the Increased Flows.



Water quality




Fact sheets

Snowy River Increased Flows (SRIFs)

Snowy Montane River Increased Flows

The role of tributaries


Snowy River Increased Flows (SRIFs)

Snowy Montane River Increased Flows (SMRIFs)

Journal articles

Brooks A.J., Lancaster J., Downes B.J. and Wolfenden B. (in press) Just add water. Rapid assembly of new communities in previously dry riverbeds, and limited long-distance effects on existing communities. Oecologia

Rose T., Erskine W. & Miners B. (2020). Channel recovery in a regulated river: Effects of an experimental and natural flood in the Snowy River, SE Australia. River Research and Applications 36, 567–579.

Brooks A.J., Wolfenden B., Downes B.J. & Lancaster J. (2018). Barriers to dispersal: The effect of a weir on stream insect drift. River Research and Applications 34, 1244–1253.

Rohlfs A.-M., Williams S., Rees G.N., Lim R.P., Werry L. & Mitrovic S.M. (2018). Experimental dam releases stimulate respiration in an epilithic biofilm community. Hydrobiologia820, 175–187.

Brooks A.J., Wolfenden B., Downes B.J. & Lancaster J. (2017). Do pools impede drift dispersal by stream insects? Freshwater Biology 62, 1578–1586.

Rohlfs A.-M., Mitrovic S.M., Williams S. & Coleman D. (2016a). Can tributary in-flows improve the recovery of the dissolved organic carbon regime in a snowmelt river regulated by a large reservoir? Marine and Freshwater Research 67, 1338.

Rohlfs A.-M., Mitrovic S.M., Williams S., Hitchcock J.N. & Rees G.N. (2016b). Dissolved organic carbon delivery from managed flow releases in a montane snowmelt river. Aquatic Sciences 78, 793–807.

McLean E.J. & Hinwood J.B. (2015). Response of the Snowy River Estuary to two environmental flows. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 127, 28.

Reinfelds I., Swanson E., Cohen T., Larsen J. & Nolan A. (2014). Hydrospatial assessment of streamflow yields and effects of climate change: Snowy Mountains, Australia. Journal of Hydrology 512, 206–220.

Brooks A.J., Russell M., Bevitt R. & Dasey M. (2011). Constraints on the recovery of invertebrate assemblages in a regulated snowmelt river during a tributary-sourced environmental flow regime. Marine and Freshwater Research 62, 1407–1420.

Hydraulic modelling animation

The animation shows modelled river flows for the spring 2010 environmental flow release to the Snowy River downstream of Dalgety. The animation was derived from hydraulic modelling as part of the Snowy Flow Response Monitoring and Modelling Program.


Images of scientists working in the waterways of the Snowy Mountains.