The State Government’s recent commitment to invest $110 million into the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme (NAIS) has generated much excitement and speculation on how this will directly affect growers in the region.
Representatives from Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia (PIRSA) and SA Water, gave a presentation on the NAIS at Adelaide Plains Council’s April 18 meeting.
CEO James Miller invited PIRSA representative, Bengy Paolo and SA Water representative, Mark Wilson to give councillors a better understanding of what the investment will look like for the region, in what Mr Miller described as a “really exciting project in our backyard.”
Mr Paolo explained the investment into the scheme is clearly aimed for export competitive production, bringing new investment in infrastructure and also on-farm production.
Business opportunities in the region will arise such as the supplying of material and equipment.
Mark Wilson of SA Water turned attention to the infrastructure of the scheme.
“We’ve spent quite a bit of time developing storage guidelines around the storing of water on the Adelaide Plains and the preferred site identified was at Bolivar,” Mr Wilson said.
“To paint a picture of the large pipeline, we’re talking about a 1200mm diameter main pipeline, really big infrastructure, not just sized for the initial 12 gig, the pipeline is sized to push even more water through.”
Increased water treatment capacity at Bolivar is also in the plan.
“The next step we need to take is to get confirmed interest from the end users, the farmers, in actually buying the water,” he said.
“Contrary to some speculation in the media we have not committed all the water to a large overseas consortium.
“Our proposal to the Commonwealth government includes a process where all growers can participate in and be on the same level playing field to put up their hand to ask for a water contract from the NAIS.
“We want to see the water go into production we want to see it go into economic use and generating jobs and growth in the region.”
When the water contracts come out to market in the coming months, growers who are willing to make a commitment to buy the water will have full pricing available, and long term water supply contracts.
“We are talking here about very long term water supplying contracts with a 100 per cent guarantee water security, “Mr Wilson explained.
“This is not like the River Murray where in a bad season you can have your allocation cut.
There will also be flexibility in the contract negotiations.
Storage of the recycled water has been a contentious issue ever since the possibility of storage in the T2 aquifer, which could have had an impact on local bores where residents sourced drinking water from, was explored as a possibility two years ago.
However, after extensive community consultation, feedback obtained on storing water in the Northern Adelaide Plains was to make sure the recycled water went to areas where the existing ground water table was isolated, and not used by people for drinking.
The target areas for water storage are towards the north of where the T2 aquifer gets into the highest salinity, and people are not tapping into that aquifer as there is no other use for it.
Residents queried the risk of the recycled water tuning salty.
It was explained that there will be a little interplay between what is injected and what is down there, “so you lose a little bit of your injected volume,” Mr Wilson answered.
“The quality of water in the NAIS is the same high quality as the Virginia Pipeline Scheme,” he stated.
“So it’s approved for unrestricted irrigation direct on food crops.
“Only a very small margin below drinking water quality.”