20,000ML extra for Snowy: A wall across the swamp means irrigation water can be stored at much greater depth and evaporation slashed. The 20,000 megalitres that used to vanish into the air each year will go back into the suffering Snowy.
Natural wetland to return: It also means about half the swamp can be returned to natural wetland. Decades of inundation by irrigation water has left it for most of the time a carp-infested shallow lake of dead trees.
$28m project: The chair of Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Dick Thompson, said the project had cost $28 million, the same as simply buying the water. He said native vegetation was already returning to the swamp and local Wiradjuri people had been able to find and retrieve important cultural artefacts.
Historically a barren area: Rural communities have been desperate to hold on to their water entitlements. In the early 19th century the explorer John Oxley called the Murrumbidgee "a country which for bareness and desolation has no equal". Thanks to irrigation it is now one of the most agriculturally rich regions of Australia.
2700 farmers entitled to water: These days 2700 Murrumbidgee farmers entitled to almost 1.5 million megalitres of water a year grow an extensive variety of crops. Thompson said too many in the water debate were short sighted and did not realise what could be achieved through savings if they worked with rural communities. Barren Box "marks the beginning of a new era in water management", he said.
Attractive option for Menindee Lakes: The NSW Primary Industries Minister, Ian Macdonald, described Barren Box as "one of the great water-saving projects". He said similar schemes could work at other storages where massive volumes were lost to evaporation, such as the Menindee Lakes in far western NSW.