Why does northern South Australia need more water?

    The national and global transition to renewable energy requires significantly increased volumes of minerals such as copper*. Increasing production in northern South Australia will become critical to meeting this demand but doing so will require large volumes of water – around 84 litres of water is used to produce just one kilogram of copper (CSIRO, 2023). The emerging green hydrogen industry, which uses water to generate hydrogen via electrolysis, and the defence industry also contribute to this growing new demand for water. 

    Why do we need a desalination plant to meet increased demand for water in northern South Australia?

    Industries in northern South Australia and the Upper Spencer Gulf are currently reliant on water from the Great Artesian Basin and the River Murray. Desalination provides the opportunity for a new and climate-independent water source, which will reduce reliance on the Great Artesian Basin and River Murray.

    Who will have access to the water?

    Northern Water is a reliable and sustainable new wholesale water source. The project is driven by thegrowing needs of a broad range of industries, reducing pressure on precious water resources like the Great Artesian Basin and the River Murray. A new sustainable source of water will unlock many growth opportunities in northern South Australia including in the mining and minerals processing industry, emerging hydrogen and green energy initiatives, the defence industry based in Woomera, pastoralists, and others who will all be able to access the water. 

    Will the plant provide water to the communities of Port Lincoln and the lower Eyre Peninsula?

    The current Northern Water project design does not include a pipeline from Cape Hardy to Port Lincoln. 

    Why is the government involved? 

    By building the Northern Water desalination plant and pipeline, the State Government can make sure that the social and economic benefits flow to the wider communities of the region. It also ensures that infrastructure is not duplicated, and that high environmental and community expectations are met.Government involvement also protects the asset from being monopolised by any single water user, protecting access to the supply for smaller users. Because there is such a high demand for water South Australia, the initial cost of the project can be offset by long-term commercial supply agreements, which significantly reducesrisk to the State. 

    What quality of water will be produced by Northern Water?

    Water produced for the Northern Water project will be of a potable standard. 

    Why is the site located in the Spencer Gulf?

    The cost of transferring water from the coast to northern South Australia and the Upper Spencer Gulf is significant. Depending on the location, the cost of the pipeline and associated infrastructure may be greater than the cost of the desalination plant itself. 

    Whilst several locations outside the Gulf were considered during the site selection process, locations outside of the Spencer Gulf resulted in the project being significantly more expensive and wouldn’t have been a sustainable or efficient use of resources. An Environmental Impact Statement is currently being prepared which will evaluate if the plant can be constructed and operated safely with minimal environmental impacts. 

    How was Cape Hardy selected as the preferred site?

    An extensive site selection process was conducted in 2022 - 2023 with input from key stakeholders, technical investigations, and a multi-criteria-analysis (MCA). 

    Three sites were initially short listed (at Crag Point, Port Lowly and at Mullaquana Station). A fourth site (Cape Hardy) was added to the short list in early 2023 after additional industry interest was received that reduced the financial impacts of constructing the plant so far south in the Spencer Gulf. 

    You can find out more about the site selection processhere. 

    How will environmental impacts be assessed? 

    As part of the development assessment process, the project will be subject to an an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS will be subject to significant technical investigations, research and community engagement that will include an assessment of the potential environmental, social, economic impacts of constructing and operating the desalination plant and transfer pipeline.

    When will the project be completed?

    Subject to a final decision on the project, earliest water supply is anticipated in 2028.