An Aggressive Attitude: (Monitoring and Maintaining Environmental Releases to the Snowy River)

Mic Clayton - Snowy Hydro , 22 October, 2010

In the new water information world people want data and they want it now. The majority of Hydrometric data collection, the dissemination of its information to users and decision makers has traditionally, if not arguably, been a passive process. What happens though when “Time is Money”?

Water is now a more tradable commodity, through water trades, buying and selling. The subsequent decision making processes around the water information required to operate the market can probably continue to cope with this relative passivity, but there are other areas of water use that require “Time is Money” assessments and decisions based on the water information being provided. Traditional and passive approaches to data collection and assessment do not lend themselves well to these scenarios.

Snowy Hydro Limited (SHL), based in the Snowy Mountains in south eastern New South Wales, supplies more than 70 per cent of all renewable energy in the mainland National Electricity Market. The fuel source for its energy production is water.

SHL is also required to conduct its operations under the conditions of the ‘Snowy Water Licence’ issued by the New South Wales Government that specifies the release rules associated with environmental releases to the Snowy River from Jindabyne Dam.

As such SHL needs to manage its operations while dealing with competing interests – that of maximising the value of the water in terms of potential generation value and that of meeting its obligations under its water licence.

In January and February 2010 SHL, under variations to its water licence, was required to undertake periods of environmental flushing releases from Jindabyne Dam down the Snowy River as part of recommendations from the Snowy River Scientific Committee. While the releases were not large, these releases also coincided with a period where the ‘dollar value’ of water increased in terms of its value in regards to peak electricity generation during periods of seasonally high summer electricity demand.

This paper discusses and reviews the hydrometric monitoring and subsequent decision making processes issues that needed addressing during, and following, these release events. The hydrographic team at SHL was required to be proactive in its monitoring, advice, decision making and direction given to the schemes operations areas that were controlling the systems that enabled the releases. An ‘aggressive attitude’ was required!