State Cabinet, meeting in Karratha today, has endorsed a proposal to build a new seawater desalination plant as the next major drinking water source for the West Pilbara.
Also, investigations will get under way to expand the Yule borefield to supplement the Hedland water supply scheme in the East Pilbara.
Speaking after the regional Cabinet meeting, Premier Colin Barnett said the new seawater desalination plant and associated infrastructure for the West Pilbara would cost approximately $370million and would be commissioned in three years.
“Today’s announcement will add a further six billion litres of water a year to support residential and small commercial growth in Karratha, Dampier, Roebourne, Wickham and Port Samson,” the Premier said.
“This is part of our recognition that the extraordinary ongoing residential growth in both the West and East Pilbara requires infrastructure investment decisions that support our ‘Pilbara Cities’ vision.”
Water Minister Graham Jacobs said the further six billion litres of drinking water would be needed for the West Pilbara supply scheme by 2015. The State Government recently called for expressions of interest from parties interested in supplying that quantity of water for the medium term future.
“There were some potentially sound possibilities for the longer term out of that process and these will be further investigated in time,” he said.
“However, the only option that would deliver a major new water source in the timeframe required was a seawater desalination plant and it has the advantage of being climate independent.”
Dr Jacobs said the Water Corporation would manage the development of the new desalination project.
“The Government has been working for some time on the development of a new desalination plant as one of the options and is sufficiently advanced in planning to be confident of commissioning in the first quarter of 2013,” he said.
“The corporation also has funding in its current budget allocation for works that will support population growth in the intervening period and has just begun an $11million water efficiency program across all towns in the Pilbara and Onslow with a target of saving at least 10 per cent of total water use in the area annually.
“This program will also play a part in ensuring security of supply through the next three years in the West Pilbara.”
For the East Pilbara, Dr Jacobs said investigations, to be completed by December, would determine if the Yule borefield had any additional supply capacity that could be made available for the scheme in Hedland.
The Hedland scheme was supplied by groundwater from the Yule and De Grey borefields.
Dr Jacobs said the Government was fully committed to the expansion as soon as practicable so further connections could be made.
“As part of the State Government’s planning for Hedland, an additional 1,800 new water service connections have already been approved in the last 18 months,” he said.
Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls said the primary purpose of the new seawater desalination plant was to ensure water supplies for the longer term for residential and small-scale industrial development. It was expected that the major industrial operators would source and fund their own water supply needs under this scenario.
“The Government is committed to a vibrant and sustainable future for the Pilbara and we are demonstrating this through the ‘Pilbara Cities’ vision and encouragement of further industrial and other commercial development,” Mr Grylls said.
“However, in this instance our main focus is on enhancing the West Pilbara’s residential and community amenity. It would be undesirable for the high quality water that will come from this plant to be used for lower value industrial uses.
“Everyone needs to play their part in building prosperous and vibrant north-west communities and I am sure everyone will.”
The Government is currently considering further water source options for Onslow for which announcement will be made by the end of the year.
Office of the Premier - 9222 9475
Office of the Minister for Water - 9213 6900
Office of the Minister for Regional Development - 9213 7000