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Barren Box Storage and Wetlands (BBSW) was a pioneering project in water savings, environmental improvement and cultural protection in which irrigators, government, environmentalists and the local community worked together to bring about highly successful outcomes.
Up until its redevelopment, the 3,200 hectare shallow site (6 kilometres in diameter located 30km north-west of Griffith), was an inefficient storage basin with high water loss through evaporation. In June 2005, the NSW Government approved the $29 million redevelopment of Barren Box to improve the storage efficiency and to restore the majority of the site to its natural ephemeral wetland state.
The project had many elements which included splitting the site into three cells, the widening of the Wah Wah Main Channel, construction of an en-route storage and the rehabilitation of 52% of the site to its natural ephemeral wetland ecosystem. The swamp site was split into 3 cells via 9 kilometres of internal embankments.
The project was completed in July 2006 and was awarded the prestigious Environment & Heritage Award in the Sydney Engineering Excellence Awards and was showcased at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum throughout 2007.
BBSW is now the main irrigation and drainage water recycle point for the MIA. Water savings of 20,000 megalitres per annum are now returned to the Snowy and Murray Rivers, and the sale of the water savings has paid for the improvements.
The active storage cell is 1,230 ha (38% of the site) and has a water storage volume of 24,500ML. The intermediate storage cell is 320 ha (10% of the site) and has a water storage volume of 4,500ML. The wetland cell is 1,650 ha (52% of the site) and being ephemeral, remains mostly dry.
BBSW is a culturally sensitive heritage site of the Wiradjuri Nation. During an archaeological study, over 1,000 stone artefacts were found at BBSW including cutting blades, fireplace remnants and grinding stones. The local indigenous community have been involved in all phases of the BBSW project and in partnership with MI, have developed a Cultural Heritage Management Plan.
Read more Barren Box Storage and Wetland Fact Sheet (PDF)
MI redeveloped BBSW in 2006 and the majority of the site is now being restored to its natural ephemeral wetland state.