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Desalination project to make farms Watersmart

A new project will support Western Australian farmers in adopting self-sufficient water supply systems and build long-term drought resilience.

The Watersmart Farms project facilitates the rapid, widespread adoption of on-farm desalination plants in agricultural regions to process brackish groundwater into a suitable resource for livestock, crop agronomy and other agribusiness activities.

The $1.5 million project seeks to optimise desalinisation technology and its application in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions, including assessing the technology, economics and systems; identifying suitable groundwater resources; and investigating options for the disposal of brine.

Researchers will examine how to improve farm dams and catchments to provide water in dry periods, including undertaking a targeted drilling exploration program to locate suitable groundwater for desalinisation trials.

Last year, farmers in the state reported that they were facing the driest conditions in 40 years.

The project aims to attract future co-investment to support the development and adoption of innovative and sustainable water supply options.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that the project will encourage on-farm initiatives to build drought resilience, particularly through desalination.

"With a record 12 Water Deficiency Declarations in the agricultural region during 2020, the cost and efficiency of securing suitable water supplies has become a major challenge for farmers,” she said.

"This visionary project builds on work by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Water Corporation, Murdoch University and the Wheatbelt Development Commission to assess on-farm desalinisation infrastructure and the implications to businesses, regional economies and the environment.”

MacTiernan said that the government hopes to position itself as a partner for future co-investment in innovative water security solutions to help the farming sector adapt to climate variability.

“There are now more than 30 small desalinisation plants across the agricultural region, reflecting a thirst by farmers to invest in self-sufficient, reliable, quality water supply systems,” she said.