2003 – Can cold water pollution be mitigated below Hume Dam?

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Cold water pollution occurs downstream of many Australian dams when water is released from well below the surface layer of a stratified reservoir during spring and summer. Water temperature can be depressed by 8 °C or more and this may impact negatively upon the survival and growth of native Australian fishes.

After many years in the ‘too hard basket’, mitigation of cold water pollution below dams is receiving increasing attention in Australia. Hume Dam is a case in point. Hume Reservoir, one of the largest irrigation reservoirs in Australia, has a high throughput of water (short residence time) and receives unseasonably cold water from Dartmouth Dam on the Mitta Mitta River and the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme on the Murray River.

The maximum possible discharge temperature below Hume Dam may be constrained by geomorphic and climatic features beyond human control. Specifically, the relatively short residence time of water may limit the extent to which it can heat up in the reservoir prior to discharge downstream. Here I present a heat budget for Lake Hume and address the question, “How much can we improve the thermal regime below Hume Dam.”

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