2000 – Mitigating Cold Water Pollution Below Dams

B. S. Sherman

Many large Australian dams currently lack selective withdrawal capabilities and release water mainly from deep within the hypolimnion. Deep-water releases coupled with the strong thermal stratification typical of Australian reservoirs results in discharge temperatures 10 °C or more colder than would normally be expected. Cold water pollution has impacted more than 1000 km of river habitat in Australia where it is known to impair spawning, feeding and survival of many native fishes.

This report reviews alternative approaches for the mitigation of cold water pollution below dams. The underlying theory and practical limitations of operation as well as field experience (including cost) with each of the methods are discussed. Two methods in particular, suface pumps and submerged curtains, appear to offer cost-effective alternatives to the expensive retrofitting of dams with multi-level outlet structures (estimated to cost $5-35m per dam for major dams in NSW). These methods are predicted to be capable of increasing discharge temperatures by 4-10 ° throughout the range of irrigation releases without any redirection of flows, i.e. hydropower releases can be maintained at present levels. This holds the promise of restoring more desirable temperatures over hundreds of kilometres of river.

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