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SA Government opening up reservoirs for recreation

In April 2018, the Australian Water Association’s South Australian (SA) branch reported on the the newly elected Marshall Government’s water-related policies. Almost twelve months on, the team spoke with the Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs about how some of these policies have progressed.

First, Speirs spoke about plans for public access to reservoirs for recreational purposes. He said this is being undertaken through a staged approach, with 10 to 12 reservoirs currently under consideration.

“The first reservoir we’re looking at is Myponga Reservoir on the Fleurieu Peninsula,” he said.

“We believe it will provide substantial economic stimulus for the western Fleurieu community and will become an increasingly attractive a tourism destination over time … Its opening is just a matter of months away.”

Speirs said it will be a staged opening, beginning with walking trails, which will give people the opportunity to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.

“Over time we’ll look for other opportunities, such as fishing, and in the longer term kayaking as well. That will be the strategy with all the reservoirs we are looking at.”

Restricting public access to reservoirs and surrounding reserves has long been accepted as a way to protect water quality, especially for those reservoirs that supply directly to the community.

Speirs said it is important to consider how water quality in the reservoirs is managed with public access.

“We’re looking at a hierarchy of activities occurring at different sites and we are taking a cautious approach to this by engaging with the community and making sure that water quality is our primary focus and that management around it is at the forefront of everything,” he said.

“We’re working with SA Health … to ensure that it [water quality] is taken into consideration. They undertake modelling and some of our reservoirs have treatment plants that won’t be troubled by this. For others, they may make the call that it is not appropriate [for recreational access] but we’ll work through that as each reservoir is analysed.”

Green Adelaide

It is expected that the new Landscape SA Act will be introduced to Parliament in the next few weeks and, if passed by both houses, it should take effect in mid-2019.

Speirs indicated there would be no major change to water-related components in the new Landscape SA Act, although he did hint at changes to come in the future.

“We have made a commitment that we will look at further water reforms in the coming couple of years because we acknowledge that water needs reform,” he said.

One of the aspects of the Landscape SA Act is ‘Green Adelaide’, which will deliver natural resource management functions for Adelaide.

Speirs said water sensitive urban design will be a key tool in pursuing the lofty aim “to make Adelaide the most ecologically vibrant city on Earth”.

“There are seven key platforms within Green Adelaide and water sensitive urban design is one,” he said.

“We know that the city of Adelaide will become increasing dense, a policy direction which is unstoppable in many ways, so we must get ahead with water sensitive urban design.”

SA Water review

It has been reported that an independent water pricing review found SA Water’s regulated asset base had been overvalued, resulting in elevated water prices for customers.

When asked what changes, if any, the Government would make to valuing SA Water’s regulated asset base and what impact this might have on prices for SA Water customers, Speirs said, “it’s too early to say where we will go with that”.

He did however say he expects the final pricing review report will have “lasting consequences for the way water is priced in SA, and there is no doubt that it will initiate reform".

The SA Government will wait until the final report is handed down mid-year before further consideration.