Chowilla Dam

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This article was considered for deletion at Wikipedia on October 1 2015. This is a backup of Wikipedia:Chowilla_Dam. All of its AfDs can be found at Wikipedia:Special:PrefixIndex/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Chowilla_Dam, the first at Wikipedia:Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Chowilla_Dam. Purge

Template:Other uses Template:Infobox dam Chowilla Dam was a proposed water storage reservoir on the Murray River in the 1960s. The dam wall would have been in South Australia, but the reservoir behind it would have stretched upstream into Victoria and New South Wales. The site was selected in 1960. Early preparations for its construction were conducted before the project was halted. These included a 23km service railway from the Barmera railway line, which was dismantled without ever actually being used.


The dam was proposed to provide flood regulation and reliable water supplies for South Australia, which pumps water from the lower Murray through pipelines across the Mount Lofty Ranges to Adelaide, and parts of the Mid North, Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula. It was announced on 21 April 1960 by Tom Playford, the Premier of South Australia.[1]

Cross border agreement

It had been agreed by the River Murray Commission in September 1961 and governments of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Australia in 1963.[2] A preliminary meeting was held on 16 April 1962 to start discussion on Chowilla Dam. Participants in that meeting were Prime Minister of Australia Bob Menzies, Premier of South Australia Tom Playford, Premier of Victoria, Deputy Premier of New South Wales and Minister for Development Jack Renshaw, Treasurer of Australia Harold Holt, Minister for National Development Bill Spooner.[3] The followup meeting at which an agreement was reached was held on 19 November 1962. Participants were Spooner (also President of the River Murray Commission) and Menzies for the Commonwealth, Renshaw and George Enticknap for NSW, Premier of Victoria Henry Bolte and Premier of South Australia Thomas Playford. The four governments would share the costs evenly, however the Commonwealth would extend a loan for the New South Wales component in exchange for water from the Menindee Lakes during construction.[4]


The reservoir would have been 55 miles long and up to 20 miles wide with a surface area of 530 sqmi due to the flat terrain. The dam wall would have been 18000 feet long and the reservoir depth up to 55 feet with a capacity of 5.06 e6acre feet.[2] The reservoir would have been approximately 45 sqmi in South Australia, 160 sqmi in Victoria and 195 sqmi in New South Wales.[1]


The dam and reservoir would have flooded the wetlands in what is now the Chowilla Game Reserve, Chowilla Regional Reserve and northern edge of the Murray-Sunset National Park and potentially raised salinity in the Riverland and lower Murray as the reservoir would have been quite shallow in a hot dry climate.

The dam was first proposed and announced by Tom Playford, the Liberal and Country League premier of South Australia in 1960. Playford's government had been in office since 1938, and through that time had presided over significant economic and infrastructure development in the state. This had included encouraging new industries, establishing satellite cities around Adelaide, nationalising the electricity generators and stimulating self-sufficiency by using Leigh Creek brown coal instead of importing black coal from interstate. The Chowilla Dam would have continued this theme by providing greater certainty and control over water supplies as Adelaide's water requirements were increasing.

Playford and the LCL won the 1962 state election only with the support of independent Tom Stott in an otherwise-hung parliament. Stott was a strong supporter of building the dam, which would be in his electorate. The Frank Walsh-led Australian Labor Party won the 1965 election. After leadership changes in both parties, the LCL led by Steele Hall defeated the ALP led by Don Dunstan in the 1968 election again through the support of Stott.

Hall became convinced that the Chowilla Dam was not a good idea and favoured agreements for water supply from Dartmouth Dam instead. As Stott still believed that the dam would be valuable in his electorate, and faced with community support in its favour, he switched his support from Hall to Dunstan, resulting in the 1970 election which returned the ALP with a majority to govern in its own right (27 out of 47 seats).[5]

Chowilla was one of the first issues where people spoke up for environmental protection. The Sunraysia Salinity Committee opposed the dam as it believed that the combination of high evaporation and absorbing of salt from the soil would lead to the water becoming too salty to be used successfully for horticulture and would kill the native vegetation too.[6]


The Dartmouth Dam was built on the Mitta Mitta River (a tributary of the Murray) in the 1970s. There are agreements in place to assure South Australia of a supply of water, and management to control the flow as it takes six weeks for water from Dartmouth Dam to reach South Australia. Lake Victoria in southwestern New South Wales on an anabranch of the Murray provides closer guaranteed supply and is operated by South Australian water authorities.[2]