What are the benefits of the Northern Water Supply project? 

    This project will bring range of environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits including but not limited to: 

     Environmental and cultural benefits   

    • Helping protect important natural assets such as the iconic and culturally important mound springs which provide important feeding and nesting habitats for native waterbirds  

    • Providing a reliable and secure source of water for some of the driest regions in the State 

    • Reducing our reliance on the River Murray and the Great Artesian Basin which are both affected by changes to our climate  

    • Supporting development of the renewable energy sector in South Australia by providing water for hydrogen production 


    • Increasing regional career and job options for young people in sustainable growth industries  

    • Improving liveability by providing a reliable water source to keep our green spaces healthy  

    • Providing support via sustainable water supplies to remote and regional communities 



    • Supporting key growth industries such as hydrogen production, copper mining and green steel 

    • Providing a secure water supply to key strategic defence assets 

    • Helping sustain and grow agricultural and pastoral industries  

    What is a business case and how does it work?

    The business case will assess the environmental, social and economic benefits and impacts of the various proposed activities which make up the Northern Water Supply Project. Stakeholder and community engagement is a key part of identifying and understanding the project opportunities, impacts and risks which need to be captured in the business case. The business case will help inform the government’s decision whether to provide further support to the Northern Water Supply Project. We anticipate the business case will be completed by the middle of 2023. 

    The activities under consideration for the business case include: 

    • A seawater desalination plant (up to 260 Megalitres/day) in the Upper Spencer Gulf, developed in two stages.  Initial analysis indicates that the seawater desalination plant could provide up to 260 Megalitres of water per day. For comparison, South Australia uses around 2,700 Megalitres of water per day on average. 

    • A 450km water pipeline to the far north of South Australia 

    • Building of additional water storages and pumping stations 

    • Connections to identified customers 

    • Additional solar power generation facilities 

    • Improved service connections such as access tracks, telecommunications, and power 

    • Construction of temporary camps, offices and laydowns. 

    Initial analysis indicates that the plant could provide up to 260 Megalitres of water per day. By comparison, South Australia uses just more than 2,700 Megalitres of water per day on average. 

    Has the government committed to building a desalination plant? 

    No, at this point there has been no commitment made by the government to build a desalination plant.  The government has only committed to funding a business case to investigate options for a new water supply; and undertake high level assessment of the cost, benefit and risks for proceeding with the preferred option 

    Has a site for the desalination plant already been selected? 

    No, we are assessing three potential sites to use as the basis for the business case. The project team has met with (and will continue to meet with) a range of key stakeholders and their feedback will assist us in analysing the various sites and identifying preferred site for further investigations.  More information about this process is provided in the question 'How will a study site be chosen?'

    The project team expect to announce the study site in early 2023.  

    How will a study site be chosen?

    The process described below relates to selecting a study site for detailed technical and environmental assessment. 

    Ten sites were considered across a wide region covering the Eyre and York Peninsulas. Sites were then eliminated where they were considered to be unfeasible due to significant cost increase or environmental constraints.  It is intended that the remaining (shortlisted) sites will be subject to a formal multi-criteria analysis (MCA) process which will be used to inform the selection of a preferred study site. 

    Shortlisted sites will be assessed and scored against a range of criteria under this MCA process, with this information to be provided to Government as part of its review and assessment of the Business Case.  

    Criteria for the MCA will be developed with input from a range of subject matter experts and key stakeholders representing environment, fisheries, community, and industry. Each shortlisted site will be assessed against criteria under the following broad areas (noting that these are subject to change based on further engagement): 

    • Environmental sustainability 

    • Social sustainability and liveability 

    • Whole of life costs 

    • Constructibility and operability 

    • Climate resilience 

    • Land access and approvals 

    How is this different to the SA Water desalination plant at Port Lincoln?

    The two desalination projects have different localities, capacities, designs and end users.  In addition, the two projects have very different timings with Port Lincoln having a near term requirement prior to 2025, while the Northern Water Supply Project is yet to be committed to and will not be available until well after this date.

    What will the project cost South Australians?

    Initial investment in the project is expected to be between $3 – 4 billion.  It is anticipated that this will be largely funded by water users rather than by the government.  However, detailed capital costs and funding arrangements are yet to be assessed as part of the business case development currently being undertaken by Infrastructure SA  

    The business case is jointly funded by the Australian Government and South Australian Government. Australian Government funding is provided through the National Water Grid Fund.   

    As with other water supply options within South Australia, the Northern Water Supply Project is looking to provide water supply for commercial sale in the Upper Spencer Gulf and far north South Australia. Upfront capital and operational costs are being assessed together with customer demand and technical optimisation studies. All of this information will inform the business case and governments decision of how, or if, to proceed and this decision is expected to be made in early to mid 2023 

    What environmental assessments will be undertaken?

    The Northern Water Supply Project began high level environmental studies in March 2022 as part of narrowing down sites for further detailed investigation. 

    The project team will continue to work with environmental specialists and stakeholders to identify and minimise environmental risks, ensure appropriate management and mitigation is included, and increase environmental opportunities. 

    A project of this nature requires at least 12 months of detailed environmental studies to gather adequate data for an impact assessment. The detailed assessments are currently being scoped and will commence early in 2023. If the business case is approved, environmental studies will continue under State and Federal government requirements to monitor, assess and mitigate any risks. 

    Any decisions will be evidence-based and consider all environmental, social and economic impacts. The University of Adelaide will provide an independent review of the marine and oceanographic components of the environmental assessment. 

    Further detail on the nature, scope and direction of the environmental assessment will be made available throughout the project and the community will be able to provide feedback throughout the process..  

    What are the benefits for the Upper Spencer Gulf?

    The project, if approved, would create job growth in the region, specifically in construction, renewable energy production, expanded mining and resource processing, while supporting existing and future agriculture and pastoral activities.  A detailed assessment of the number of jobs that are likely to be created will be undertaken during the development of the business case, however, it is anticipated that a project of this nature would create several thousand new jobs.    

     Secure access to water means existing industries can confidently expand, diversify and strengthen the economy in the region. Additionally, the project would support the establishment of new green industries for the Upper Spencer Gulf. 

    Economic growth would support the development of new businesses, increased recreational opportunities, and improved social infrastructure that will enhance the liveability of the Upper Spencer Gulf for all communities. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) anticipate the project will generate around $750 million in economic activity annually. 

    Will water be made available for remote townships? If so which ones?

    It is the intention that the project would provide a supply of water to SA Water for water distribution in the Upper Spencer Gulf and arid north. SA Water have identified pipeline connection options which would allow the augmenting of the pipeline network to distribute water supply around the Upper Spencer Gulf including Whyalla and Upper Eyre Peninsula.

    It is further expected that communities at Woomera and Roxby Downs will be supplied with water from the project.

    What will the water quality be?

    The business case is for the development of a potable (drinking quality) water supply.

    What will the impact be on protected terrestrial species? 

    Work is currently being undertaken to select the best location for the project with consideration for threatened species and threatened ecological communities. Once site selection is completed, a rigorous approval process will commence, and the project will be assessed under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999. To conduct this assessment, a Protected Matters Search Tool is used to produce a report of all the threatened species and threatened ecological communities within the project footprint and associated buffer zone.  

    This list of species and threatened ecological communities are then assessed against a set of standard significant impact criteria as outlined by the Department for Climate Change Environment and WaterThis will allow Infrastructure SA to consider design strategies to avoid and/or minimise potential impacts to the environment. This self-assessment is submitted as a referral to DCCEEW for review. If it considers that the project has not adequately minimised the impact to the environment, DCCEEW will set conditions on the project which must be adhered to. 

    Will this project reduce the amount of water taken from the Great Artesian Basin and/or the River Murray?

    Currently water supply to the area is primarily sourced from the Great Artesian Basin and River Murray. The Northern Water Supply Project would provide a newadditional water source for users in the arid north of South Australia. This would reduce reliance on water sourced from the Great Artesian Basin and River Murray, allowing businesses in the region the opportunity to transition away from these sources in an efficient and controlled manner. By providing an alternative water source, the project will support improved ecological outcomes for the Murray-Darling system and Great Artesian Basin for the benefit of future generations.

    How can I find out more about the Northern Water Supply Project or ask a question?

    You can stay connected to the project by signing up to 'stay informed'  and viewing the newsfeed on Your Say for updates. Alternatively you can contact the project team via email northernwatersupply@sa.gov.au