Publication Details

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 (2), 28-43.


The Snowy River is a major river in south-eastern Australia, discharging to the Tasman Sea via a barrier estuary, with its entrance constricted by marine sands. Since the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, river flows have not been sufficient to maintain the river channel. A program of environmental flow releases (EFR) is returning water to the river to restore the fluvial reaches and is now trialling flow regimes that may also benefit the estuarine reaches. This paper documents the response of the estuarine segments of the Snowy River to two EFRs; the release in 2010 was designed to scour the upper reaches of the Snowy River while the larger 2011 release was intended to extend the scouring downstream. For each release, the effects on the entrance morphology, tides and salinity through the flow peak and recovery are described. Each EFR caused minor increases in depth and very minor longshore movement of the entrance channel, although each EFR had been preceded by a larger fresh flow that would have scoured the channels. The small increase in fresh water inflow in the 2010 EFR pushed salinity contours seawards and steepened vertical salinity gradients. The larger inflow in the 2011 EFR purged the upper estuary of saltwater. After the peak flow, salinity recovery was rapid in the principal estuarine channels but took weeks where poorly connected wetlands could store fresh flood waters. Critical flows for scouring the entrance and purging salinity are estimated.



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