1999 – Wingecarribee Reservoir Swamp Failure

Kumara Arachchi and Kelvin J Lambkin

Wetlands by their very nature act as storages of pollutants and nutrients in systems subject to environmental stresses. Wingecarribee Swamp acted in this manner and enhanced the quality of catchment runoff flowing into the Wingecarribee Reservoir until the structural failure of early August 1998 in which 6000 megalitres of peat and sedimentary material were moved into the Reservoir. Protection of the Swamp’s functions and values is directly related to Sydney Catchment Authority’s core objectives of protecting the environment and protecting public health by supplying drinking water of acceptable quality. Due to the catastrophic failure, water quality in the reservoir and the ecological integrity of the Swamp have been compromised. The incident has also resulted in significant dam safety issues.

This paper describes the dam safety, catchment management and water quality response to the failure of a major peatland which covered 8% of the catchment of Wingecarribee Reservoir in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

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