Merredin will be the site for an important trial to test the viability of an innovative strategy to use in the battle against townsite salinity, Primary Industry Minister Monty House and Water Resources Minister Dr Kim Hames announced today in Merredin.
The Merredin Townsite Groundwater Pumping and Desalination Pilot Project will test the feasibility of pumping water from beneath towns to lower the water table and processing the water to make it drinkable.
The one-year pilot project is a joint initiative of Agriculture Western Australia (AGWEST), the Water Corporation and the Merredin Shire. Funding has been sourced from the Government’s Regional Development Trust Fund through the State Salinity Council’s ‘Community Support Scheme 2000’.
A $320,000 cheque from the State Salinity Council was presented to Merredin Shire President Lindsay Caughey this morning by Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan to launch the project.
Mr Cowan said the project was one element in a comprehensive Government strategy to combat salinity, a task to which the Government had allocated $43 million this financial year. A further $20 million has been earmarked for salinity from the sale of AlintaGas.
Mr House said that while the effects of salinity on farmland were well-known, there were also a number of towns affected by salinity with damage being caused to buildings in communities.
“Rising water tables and salinity can threaten key facilities such as public buildings, roads, bridges - even people’s homes,” Mr House said.
“For example in Merredin, salinity is affecting the foundations of businesses in the centre of town and this project will turn a negative problem into a positive resource.”
Dr Hames said a major desalination study showed that desalination had become more financially viable in some areas.
“This pilot project not only has exciting potential for Merredin, but other country towns in their fight against salinity and providing them with another source of potable water,” he said.
Mr House said the water table beneath Merredin was found to be less than three metres from the surface during groundwater investigations as part of Agriculture Western Australia’s Rural Towns Program. The salt content of the water was equivalent to half that of seawater.
He said pumped water could be used for aquaculture in the future.
The Rural Towns Program is an important part of the State Salinity Strategy which is helping more than 30 rural WA towns in their fight against salinity.
“If the project proves viable, this project may be extended to a number of rural towns facing similar salinity issues,” Mr House said.
“When used in conjunction with other treatments such as surface water management, tree planting and drainage, groundwater pumping can be very effective in lowering the water table.”
Minister House’s Office - Julie Cole (9481 2044)
Minister Cowan’s Office - Peter Jackson (9222 9888)
Minister Hames’ Office - Sandy Gater (9424 7450)