Most of the water on the Eyre Peninsula comes from underground basins. Most of this water is already drinkable and requires almost no treatment. We have 54 bores to draw the water.
Population and industry continue to grow in this area. This means that, despite the quality of local water, its availability is likely to become an increasing issue. This is why we commissioned a pipeline in June 2007 to deliver River Murray water to customers between Kimba and Lock in the north of the peninsula.
The 2007 Long Term Plan identified a seawater desalination plant as the preferred water augmentation option for the Eyre Peninsula as it is a climate independent option and will improve water quality issues. In 2011, with improved groundwater recharge and marked reductions in customer demand this project was ultimately deferred.
We are committed to providing our customers with safe, clean drinking water. A dependable supply requires a reliable source. The majority of water on the Eyre Peninsula is sourced from groundwater which is drawn from the Uley South Basin with about 20 per cent coming from the River Murray via the Morgan to Whyalla pipeline.
Together with the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) we are measuring and monitoring critical indicators that assess the health of groundwater resources including the Uley South Basin.
Mindful of protecting the groundwater resources following three consecutive years of low rainfall and recharge of the Uley South Basin, we are now progressing the option to supplement the Eyre Peninsula’s water supply with seawater desalination.
Our focus is on managing the health of water catchments so we can deliver safe, clean drinking water to our customers living and working on the Eyre Peninsula while protecting and enhancing the area for future generations.
Together with the NRM Board, in 2008 we developed a Long Term Plan (the Plan) for Eyre Peninsula’s drinking water system.
The development of the Plan took about 12 months and we worked intensively with the community to engage people across the Eyre Peninsula.
The Plan focused on ensuring Eyre Peninsula has a secure water supply to meet future demand, with seawater desalination a preferred option to supplement the existing drinking water supply.
The Plan is designed to be adaptive so that we can respond to changes in climate conditions, resource allocations as well as customer use and needs.
We monitor supply and customer demand, including the annual review of the Plan, to ensure water security for the Eyre Peninsula is based on up to date information.
In 2010 we identified a number of suitable locations for a future desalination plant in the Eyre Peninsula. Local landowners were advised of the site investigations and asked to provide feedback on various locations which included Cathedral Rocks and Sleaford Bay.
These sites were assessed against a range of criteria, including the marine and terrestrial environments, geotechnical, cultural and infrastructure considerations.
Sleaford Bay was identified as the preferred location for a small seawater desalination plant, based on factors including how close it is to the existing water supply network, strong ocean currents that minimise environmental impact plus ready accessibility to electricity and transport infrastructure.
As part of our approach to water security planning, we recently bought property in Sleaford Bay. We are now recommencing discussions with the local community, as well as progressing site investigations.
Before any construction works start we need to complete further planning and investigations that will be used as part of the approval process.
This planning work includes:
With this information we can then plan and design a desalination plant that has the least impact on both the terrestrial and marine environment during construction and when it operates.
Consistent with our commitment to reconciliation, we will work together with local traditional owners to ensure their heritage is protected.
There will also be opportunities for the wider Eyre Peninsula community to provide feedback.
Uley South Basin will continue to be used to supply water for our customers. Following the construction of a desalination plant, water supplied across the Eyre Peninsula will be a blend of groundwater and desalinated seawater. This enables the sustainability and longevity of the basin for the future.
The size of the desalination plant and the blending ratio of groundwater to desalination water will be determined further to our detailed investigation and planning work.
As we do right across South Australia, we supply safe clean drinking water to our customers on the Eyre Peninsula. By blending desalinated seawater and groundwater from Uley South Basin there will be opportunity to improve aspects of water quality such as water hardness and taste.
The planning and design for a desalination plant at Sleaford Bay will be informed by extensive environmental investigations to ensure minimal impact to marine ecosystems in the region.
Previous experience with other seawater desalination plants – both our experience here in South Australia and more widely across Australia – has shown that with good design and engineering, these facilities can be built and operated with minimal impact to marine ecosystems.
All of our customers, including those on Eyre Peninsula, benefit from state-wide pricing. We continue to work to ensure we keep our prices as low and as stable as possible.
In August 2018, we commenced consultation with the District Council of Lower Eyre Peninsula and the City of Port Lincoln.
Further community engagement activities that will occur over the next few months will include:
Planning investigations both onshore and offshore in Sleaford will also commence from September, as will cultural heritage assessments.
We will work together with the Eyre Peninsula community as we progress plans for supplementing the local supply of safe clean drinking water with seawater desalination. This will include direct engagement with local interest groups and opportunities for the community to participate in open days and receive information through website updates, local newspapers and mailing lists.