Water Week

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Murray-Darling dams not enough to water Adelaide in extreme drought; 52pc spending increase to improve South Australia’s water infrastructure

Posted by waterweek on 22 September 2007

The need to find further sources of water was the reason why, in March this year, the government commissioned the Desalination Working Group to investigate alternative sources of supplying water for the future, including desalination, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said in the South Australian House of Assembly on 11 September 2007.

Traditional Murray-Darling dams not enough: “This September River Murray in-flows across the border are the lowest they have ever been at less than 30 per cent of the normal flows at this time of the year,” Rann said. “This severe and unusual drought event brought into stark focus the fact that Adelaide can no longer rely on upstream Murray-Darling dams to back up our storages in the Adelaide Hills at times of extreme drought. To buffer our city against the years of low rainfall and drought, it is obvious that we need to find more storage and alternative sources of water supply. Since settlement Australians have relied on the rain that falls in our water catchments.”

Desalination to be investigated: “We have built dams and we have invested in reuse of wastewater and stormwater harvesting, but this year has severely tested the reliability of these resources,” said Rann. “That is why, in March this year, the government commissioned the Desalination Working Group, chaired by South Australia’s independent Murray-Darling Basin Commissioner and former chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Ian Kowalick, to thoroughly investigate alternative sources of supplying water for the future, including desalination.”

Recycling and infrastructure improvements: Rann said: “In terms of better managing our water, this government has been investing in infrastructure and upgrading our wastewater treatment plants across the metropolitan area. The approved recycling projects when completed will mean that nearly 45 per cent of our wastewater will be recycled — well ahead of the national average of 9 per cent, and that includes South Australia. SA Water’s capital expenditure has increased by 52 per cent in the past five years to $658 million compared to the previous five years under the former Liberal government, and that is the difference. …capital expenditure is forecast to increase a further 60 per cent over the next five years. We have legislated to better manage our stormwater in partnership with local government.”

Pump inlets lowered, emergency weir decision delayed: “As part of our emergency drought contingency arrangements … pump inlets on the River Murray providing water to Adelaide are being lowered,” Rann said. “This will ensure access to water in the event that the river level continues to fall. Current predictions on the lake levels, combined with the depths the pumps can be operated at, mean the decision to build an emergency temporary weir can now be delayed until at least June next year. I hope that will not be necessary.”

Reference: M.D. Rann, Premier of South Australia, Minister for the Arts, House of Assembly, South Australia, 11 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 17/9/2007


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