Long-term water options for SA desert need to be sustainable

Statement from the Conservation Council of SA in response to today’s announcement of a State and Federal Government-backed business case for the Northern Water supply project.


MEDIA RELEASE

16 February 2022

Long-term water options for SA desert need to be sustainable

Statement from the Conservation Council of SA in response to today’s announcement of a State and Federal Government-backed business case for the Northern Water supply project.

Attributed to Craig Wilkins, Chief Executive

 

‘As the state’s peak environment body, we welcome the recognition that neither the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) nor the River Murray are sustainable solutions for mining water in the state’s north and that water is a finite and precious common resource, not the cost-free ‘right’ of the extractives industry.

‘The GAB is under stress with current mining extraction levels. This needs to be urgently reduced to protect the unique and fragile Springs of the GAB, an EPBC Act listed Endangered Ecological Community.  Any further increase is untenable.

‘Environmental and Aboriginal voices have been concerned and critical regarding Olympic Dam’s unsustainable GAB water usage for many years - particularly the environmental and cultural impact on the Mound Springs.

‘Equally, fresh water from the Murray-Darling Basin system is already severely over allocated.

‘As the Northern Water Supply project is a process to identify a truly sustainable water solution for decades to come, a review into all other options is appropriate. Desalination is potentially one of those options.

‘However, desalination also has significant environmental impacts depending on the location of the input and outfall pipelines, and the source of energy used. It needs to be robustly assessed, not rapidly embraced without substantial investigation.

‘We are surprised that the Upper Spencer Gulf (USG) has already been identified as the preferred location, given the enormous environmental, social and community concerns raised last time this option was proposed.

‘Scientists and marine experts have previously raised concerns about the level of ocean flushing in the USG, and the flow-on impact that would occur to marine life, including iconic events like the Giant Australian Cuttlefish aggregation if salinity levels were to rise. 

‘There are significant economic, reputational, social and environmental risks for the state and the companies involved from a poor process and an unsustainable outcome.

‘For such an important, multi-decade economic development strategy regarded by the Premier in his statement as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’, we urge the proponents to involve the scientific and environmental communities early in the process to identify the most sustainable long-term location/technology, and to build social licence.

Too often projects such as this one are announced and defended, rather than involving appropriate community and scientific expertise early in the process.

We urge the Marshall Government to include appropriate community and environmental input into the investigation from the beginning, not tacked onto the end. 

Such an approach means that it is more likely the plan will result in a sustainable pipeline, not an environmental and economic drain.’

RELEASE ENDS

For further comment: Craig Wilkins 0417 879 439

 

 

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Contact Conservation SA on (08) 8223 5155, [email protected], or at our offices at the Joinery at 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide.

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