The Snowy River originates on the slopes of Mount Kosciuszko. It drains the eastern slopes of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales before flowing through the Snowy River National Park in Victoria and emptying into Bass Strait.
There are four major dams and multiple diversion weirs in the Snowy River catchment. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme diverts water to the Murrumbidgee and River Murray valleys and previously resulted in the diversion of 99 percent of the Snowy River's mean annual natural flow at Jindabyne. Travelling downstream, the hydrological effects of the scheme are still substantial but are mitigated by the contribution of flows from tributaries (such as the Delegate River in New South Wales and the Buchan River in Victoria).
While playing an important role in electricity generation and irrigation supply, flow diversion and other activities have affected the river's hydrology and resulted in a significant deterioration in the health of the Snowy River. The Victorian, New South Wales and Commonwealth governments have recovered water (equivalent to 21 percent of the average natural flow) to help restore damage done by decades of limited flow.
Victorian environmental water available for use in the Snowy system is held in the Murray, Goulburn and Loddon systems. This water is made available for environmental flows in the Snowy River via a substitution method, whereby Victorian environmental water replaces water that was earmarked for transfer from the Snowy to Victoria to support irrigation demands.
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries does the planning for environmental flows in the Snowy River, and consults the Victorian and Australian governments and stakeholder groups about environmental water released to the Snowy River.