Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Raising Warragamba Dam Wall - Expensive, Ineffective and Environmentally Destructive

Raising the wall of Warragamba Dam by 23 metres to reduce downstream flooding -- as recommended in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Management Review -- would lead to the destruction of some of the most heavily-protected wilderness areas in Australia, yet still fail to eliminate the flood risks for western Sydney communities.

The review conducted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Office of Water, claims raising the dam is the "most effective infrastructure for providing regional flood mitigation", despite admitting it would be expensive, take a long time to implement, and be environmentally destructive.

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness said if Warragamba Dam was raised -- inundating huge areas of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Areas -- then no natural area in Australia would be safe.

"This is perhaps the most protected natural area in the country, not only as part of one of our most recognised national parks, with the additions of world heritage listing, wilderness declarations, recognised wild rivers, and special area catchment status," Colong Foundation director Keith Muir said.

"If such a significant, well-protected area can be degraded by artificial inundation, no natural area in Australia is safe under our conservation laws."

Mr Muir said that the visual impacts of temporary flooding would leave hundreds of kilometres of bare riverbanks, visible from popular tourist destinations that draw millions of visitors a year to experience the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains.

He also said the flooding would be devastating for the critically-endangered Camden White Gum.

"Over three quarters of the remaining Camden White Gums are found in the Kedumba Valley in the Blue Mountains National Park and would be at risk of being killed by inundation if the dam wall were raised," Mr Muir said.

The Colong Foundation said that the NSW Government's own report admits that raising the dam wall would still not eradicate the risk of flooding downstream.

"This report admits that this raised dam wall would reduce, but not eliminate the risk of significant flooding," Mr Muir said.

"There are a range of other alternatives that are cheaper and faster that can genuinely reduce risks to the community, without harming the environment.

"These include greater investment in emergency evacuation routes, improved planning rules, better flood monitoring and data collection, and new community awareness campaigns highlighting the risk of flooding in the valley.

"As the authors themselves concluded, 'effective evacuation is the only measure that can guarantee to reduce the risk to life'."

Mr Muir said raising the dam wall risked making the community more complacent, and increasing urban sprawl over flood prone areas.

“The influx of many more residents into the Hawkesbury-Nepean region would generate additional economic and human risks and make emergency evacuation harder when future floods inevitably occur," he said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir 0412 791 404 (mob)