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Money flows into WA desalination project

Public and private investors have committed $396 million to fund a project to reduce salinity in Western Australia’s (WA) Wellington Dam.

With a capacity of 185 GL, Wellington Dam is WA’s second-largest surface water reservoir, but less than 20% of its water is currently used because of high salinity levels.

The Myalup-Wellington project will divert and desalinate water flowing into the dam from the Collie River, providing a fresh water supply for irrigators in WA’s south west. It will be led by Collie Water with funding from the State and Federal Governments.

Up to 14 GL of water will be pumped from the Collie River each year into a disused mine void. The stored water will be treated at a new private desalination facility near Collie, which will produce potable water to be delivered to Harris Dam.

The Burekup Weir will also be improved, while existing open irrigation channels built in the 1960s will be replaced with a closed pipe network. This will save about 15 GL of water per year currently lost through seepage, leakage or evaporation, and expand the area under irrigation.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the project will provide a long-term solution to salinity problems in the Wellington Dam and bring economic benefits.

“The project is expected to increase supply of potable water into the Harris Dam by 10 GL per year,” McCormack said.

“It’ll boost WA’s gross state product by more than $570 million each year and support up to 830 jobs throughout the construction and operation phases.”

The State Government has committed $37 million to the project as part of its Water for Food scheme, which aims to expand WA’s agricultural production by identifying sustainable water sources.

WA Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan said access to fit-for-purpose water was vital for the region’s growth.

“The Myalup-Wellington project will help secure the future of the region in a drying climate, creating opportunities for expanded horticulture and agriculture,” MacTiernan said.

She said the project will be staged over the next five to seven years, with work already underway to increase the number of timber plantations in the Wellington Dam catchment to help control salinity.

The project is being funded by the Federal Government ($190 million), WA Government ($37 million) and Collie Water and private investors ($169 million).