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SA desal plant to increase production as part of drought deal

Production at the Adelaide Desalination Plant will ramp up as part of the Federal Government’s latest drought-relief package.

The “virtually unused” plant will produce an initial 40 GL of water this financial year, with the possibility of a further 60 GL in 2020/21, depending on a review.

This means an equivalent amount of Murray River water destined for Adelaide can be reallocated to farmers upstream so they can grow feed for livestock.

The Commonwealth will fund the increase in production and will provide the extra water to farmers at less than market rates, in what the South Australian (SA) Government has called a “historic agreement”.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the state was proud to support farmers, provided there was no adverse impact on Adelaide’s water security or prices.

“SA survived some of the most extreme effects of the Millennium Drought and fully understands the terrible impacts that drought has on farmers, families, regional communities and the nation,” he said.

“We are prepared to provide support, but we will not jeopardise our own water security or do anything that increases costs to South Australians.”

At full capacity, the desalination plant can produce up to 100 GL a year, about half of Adelaide’s water requirements. 

SA Water Minister David Speirs said providing water was the “right thing to do at a time of national urgency”.

“Given our desalination plant sits virtually unused, it’s time to increase its production so water is made available to drought-affected farmers across the nation,” he said.

“We have already used the Adelaide desalination plant to increase the water available to holders of SA River Murray allocations by eight percentage points and we are now further extending these benefits to a broader range of farmers in this time of national need.”

In addition to the agreement with SA, the Federal Government’s new drought package includes $1 million each for new drought-affected councils and shires, and an additional $1 million for the 122 shires and councils that have already received funding, if needed. 

There will also be a $50 million discretionary fund to support projects in Local Government Areas impacted by the drought and $200 million to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities.