Every Little Drop
We explore the Snowy Scheme both as an engineering wonder and an epic human saga. It took 25 years to build, employing one hundred thousand workers from around the world, yet the Snowy Scheme was completed on time and within budget. Its primary aim was to collect and channel water inland to the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers for irrigation, passing through a series of power stations and generating hydro-electricity whose sale would help finance the project.
The end result is a vast network of 16 dams, 7 power stations, 145 kilometres of tunnels, 80 kilometres of aqueducts, dozens of surge tanks, spillways and pressure pipes. On 17th October 1999, the 50th Birthday of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme was celebrated on the shores of Lake Jindabyne. Thousands of Snowy workers and their families were re-united to recall old times and remember mates no longer here, and some of them shared their memories with us.
Joe Morgan, a Polish refugee, recounts his escape from Siberia and a new start as a diamond driller in Australia. Joy Dudas, nurse, describes the loneliness of young mothers in remote mountain camps. Latvian born Imans Viesis (known as "Willie-the-Whip") relives his work in the tunnels: the routine, the noise, the dust, the explosions, the risk of silicosis, and the competition to set world records. Ulick O'Boyle tells us stories of his time as a first aid officer in the tunnels dealing with accident casualties and deaths.
The environmental impacts of the Snowy Scheme are now in debate: Ecologist Sam Lake and Snowy River Alliance activist Paul Leete argue that the trickle that was once the snow River, and the increasing salinity of the Murray-Darling Bsin, are the creations of excessive water releases to inefficient irrigators, while ricegrower, Ian Douglas, states the case in defence.
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