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Government to assess Goldfields/Esperance water options
5/01/2001 12:38 PM
The State Government is to investigate the options for securing sustainable water supplies to the Goldfields Esperance region, Resources Development Minister Colin Barnett said today.
The resources industry - particularly nickel and gold production - is the dominant user of water in the region. Recent studies undertaken by the Department of Resources Development show mining activity is likely to expand and with it, demand for water for industrial, purposes and domestic use.
Water demand projections have led to uncertainty and concern at both the State and Federal levels over whether such demand can be adequately and sustainably met from existing groundwater supplies in the region.
“It is vital that we start planning now to secure a sustainable water supply which will help to underpin the growth and future prosperity of this key region, and the State,” Mr Barnett said.
“This part of Western Australia covers 400,000sq.km from Wiluna to Esperance and includes some of our most water-deficient areas.
“Surface water resources are non-existent except after heavy rain, leaving the region currently dependent on groundwater as its major source of water.”
Based on DRD projections, the Water and Rivers Commission has forecast that water use by mining activity could more than double in the next 20 years, from 78 gigalitres of water each year to around 190 GL/yr, subject to a range of factors relating to individual developments.
The commission’s National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA) Water Availability and Use project forecasts that demand will outstrip supply within the Northern and Kalgoorlie Goldfields areas by 2005.
“For this reason, I have initiated a process which will enable us to tap into the very best water practitioners from the private sector to help us to determine the best water supply options for all concerned,” Mr Barnett said.
Water Resources Minister Dr Kim Hames said he was pleased that it had reached this stage.
“This will allow for the various options for water for the Goldfields/Esperance region to be considered,” Dr Hames said.
This weekend, State and national newspapers will carry an initial explanation of the input that Government is seeking, followed shortly afterwards by a formal call for registrations of interest.
It is anticipated that formal expressions of interest will be called mid-year, with the aim of identifying a preferred water provider and defining the water supply area.
The expressions of interest process will be managed by a steering committee led by DRD and comprising Ministry for Planning, Water and Rivers Commission and the Office of Water Regulation.
Among the options likely to be assessed are:
continuing use of local hypersaline ground water;
desalinated seawater piped from Geraldton to the Northern Goldfields;
desalinated seawater piped from Esperance to Kalgoorlie Goldfields;
seawater piped from Esperance to the Goldfields, with part of the volume desalinated en-route and part in Kalgoorlie-Boulder;
brackish to hypersaline water from the Officer Basin to the Northern Goldfields and Kalgoorlie Goldfields; and -
water piped from the Perth Basin to the Northern Goldfields and Kalgoorlie Goldfields.
“These are some ideas which have already been mooted by industry,” Mr Barnett said.
“The intent of the expressions of interest process is to widen the thinking and stimulate innovative proposals from private industry that will benefit all parties and enable informed decision-making by Government.”
The development of any supply scheme will be subject to normal water allocation and licensing, service provider licensing and environmental impact assessment processes.
Media contact: Caroline Lacy - 08 9222 9686