EP water supply boosted

I rise today to speak on a topic I have spoken much about in this place, and that is the water supply on Eyre Peninsula. We were pleased to have the Minister for Environment and Water visit Eyre Peninsula a couple of weeks ago and reaffirm this government’s commitment to building a desalination plant on the south coast of Eyre Peninsula.

Of course, water has been an issue from the earliest days. Matthew Flinders discovered—charted, really—the southern coastline of South Australia and commented on the wonderful natural harbour that Port Lincoln now sits on. It was even cited as a possible capital for this colony. Unfortunately, there was not enough water, so the settlement spread along the coast in the early days.

It was not until the railway line began being built in 1907, extended out to 1925, that the real necessity for water became apparent. A big part of the early water supply was to supply the steam trains with enough water to run the steam engine. The Tod Reservoir was built in 1926 and, at the time, it was the longest gravity-fed reticulated water scheme in the world, travelling some 250 miles north to Ceduna. It was pumped to the top of Knotts Hill and from there it gravitated north, believe it or not—not necessarily uphill—as far as Ceduna. It was a remarkable engineering feat for the 1920s.

Just after the war, it became apparent that we were going to need more water on Eyre Peninsula and the Uley underground basin just west of Port Lincoln was tapped into. That was supplemented in the 1960s by the Polda Basin, in between Lock and Elliston, and the Robinson Basin was accessed by the residents of Streaky Bay. Sadly, the Polda and Robinson basins have both collapsed. I am not going to ponder why that may have happened, but certainly there was significant pumping and years of low rainfall and low recharge, so there we have it.

There is concern about the Uley Basin and the fragility of that supply. In about 2008, we gained access to the River Murray water from Iron Knob out to Kimba and in to Lock. My understanding is the Murray now supplies about 15 per cent of Eyre Peninsula’s water requirements. Way back in 2002, at the height of the Millennium Drought, the previous member for Flinders, Liz Penfold, was adamant that a desal plant needed to be built on Eyre Peninsula. She was right in fact, and here we are, 18 years later. It is actually going to be 20 years before it comes online, but it is in hand finally and it has taken a Marshall Liberal government to deliver it.

The minister and I went down to Sleaford, which is south-west of Lincoln on the bottom tip of Eyre Peninsula. It is exposed to the Southern Ocean. We looked at the two sites being considered. I do not believe a site has been finalised as yet, but I do know that contracts are being sought in relation to the construction of the desal plant. It is a $90 million project. It is a huge infrastructure spend, probably the biggest spend on Eyre Peninsula since the building of the Tod Reservoir almost 100 years ago.

It is a relatively small desal plant. The intention is to build just a four-gigalitre plant, which pales into insignificance when compared with the one at Port Stanvac, which can operate at 100 gigalitres. It is minuscule compared with that, but it is important because Eyre Peninsula without Whyalla uses just eight or nine gigalitres of reticulated water a year. This will provide about 50 per cent of that requirement. It is not the whole lot, it is not intended to be, but what it will do is provide water security and help preserve the existing underground basin, which of course is being extracted from at the moment, so it will help maintain and preserve that resource as well.

A side benefit, but one that is much looked forward to, is that it will also improve the water quality. People know that underground water is high in calcium; it is hard water. It is very hard on hot water services, kettles and things like that. Desalinated water of course is virtually pure. If it is to be shandied with our underground water, we should see much improvement in the quality, which will be much appreciated by the residents of Eyre Peninsula.

The final thing I have to say today is that the location really is dependent upon letting brine out into the Southern Ocean where it can be dispersed and also it provides close access to existing pumping stations and the existing system. We look forward to water security on Eyre Peninsula.


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