2019 – Increasing Airspace Management Flexibility at Hume Dam for Better Flood Operations and Environmental Outcomes

Andrew Bishop, Tom Zouch

A new operating arrangement at Hume Dam is being developed to improve the transition from flood operations to the release of water set aside for delivering environmental flow demands. The arrangement also aims to help manage inherent downstream flood risks associated with this transition and with the requirement to fill the storage.
This paper describes particular flood risks and environmental impacts resulting from the current approach required to meet asset and water resource security priorities during airspace management operations at Hume Dam. It then considers how the new environmental demands have interacted with long-standing operating objectives and airspace management during high inflow periods in ways that have altered the dam operations required to meet operating priorities and manage flood risks.

Critically, requests by environmental managers to start releases can arise sooner and with greater uncertainty compared with releases for meeting irrigation demand following a period of flood operations or airspace management. This difference has led to a more rapid storage filling curve to maximise water resource during periods when inflow rates remain relatively high and catchments are still responsive to rainfall.

The paper details how the new operating arrangement provides greater volumes and more flexible flood mitigation airspace using a discretionary volume of ‘held’ environmental water without otherwise impacting on the flood operations decision-making process. A number of challenges in defining the potential level of benefit and risk, and in understanding trade-offs were faced in negotiating the arrangement. However, the successful development of the approach and agreement to trial it were ultimately achieved by framing the issue as an opportunity to adjust dam operations in a way that seeks mutual benefits for dam operators and environmental managers.

Full adoption of the arrangement would result in greater airspace flexibility during flood operations to better manage risks without affecting water resource. Simultaneously, it provides environmental benefit due to changes in the pattern of releases during the transition period from flood operations to the commencement of environmental water releases as well as during the pre-spill release period.

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