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SA desal plant returns to normal operating mode after key role in Water for Fodder program

After production was temporarily increased to contribute to the Water for Fodder program, the Adelaide Desalination Plant will return to its normal operating mode where it contributes annually to metropolitan Adelaide’s drinking water supplies.

Part of the Water for Fodder program, the $1.8 billion plant had been called into action to provide water to 800 farmers in the southern Murray-Darling Basin at $100/ML, provided they grew fodder or pasture.

The Adelaide Desalination Plant will return to its normal operating mode where it contributes annually to metropolitan Adelaide’s drinking water supplies. Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt said that 84% of those who participated in the first round of water allocation said they would apply again if they had the opportunity.

"We helped those farm businesses during a difficult period of water shortages," Pitt said.

"However, the independent technical review found that while the water supply situation for South Australia will develop over the water year, it will not be until after winter and some spring inflows that actual water availability for the 2020-21 water year will be more clearly known.

"I intend to work and consult closely with South Australia on the future of the program."

Announced last November by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and then-Water Minister David Littleproud, the plant was set to deliver 40 GL of water by 30 June 2020, with the possibility of a further 60 GL in 2020/21, depending on a review.

Under the arrangement, the Commonwealth was to provide $100 million to South Australia so that the Adelaide desalination plant could go into production. The water produced by the plant would free up 100 GL of water upstream, which would then be sold at a heavily reduced rate to farmers.

South Australian Water Minister David Speirs said a decision whether to proceed with producing a further 60 GL in 2020-21 was expected in the coming months. 

“We have always said we would review the program before commencing the second round to assess water availability across the Murray-Darling Basin, the impacts of different water dependent industries and to protect South Australia’s water security,” he said.

When running at full capacity, the desalination plant can produce up to 100 GL a year, which is about half of Adelaide’s water requirements.