Consultants investigating water supplies for the South-West's proposed pulp mill have concluded it is possible to make use of water from the Wellington Dam.
"This is excellent news and will certainly bolster our attempts to attract investment for the project," Deputy Premier Ian Taylor said today.
He made the comment after releasing a water quality report for the proposed mill compiled for the Department of State Development by international pulp and paper industry consultants, Jaakko Poyry.
State Development is currently seeking expressions of interest in the project from more than 150 major companies both in Australia and overseas and being able to draw water from an existing dam is a significant advantage.
"These days no-one drinks water from Wellington Dam and it is used mainly for irrigation," Mr Taylor said.
"But the consultants say the added cost of making it pure enough for the mill would not make pulp production too expensive.
"That means the mill's developers would have the opportunity to tap into an existing water resource and we could give Wellington Dam an additional and important lease of life."
Mr Taylor said to produce high quality pulp, the purer the water the better.
"Of course, there would be cost penalties in using the Wellington Dam, but the consultants have concluded that such penalties would only produce a 'relatively minor' addition to the sale price of the pulp," he said.
He said the study had examined five options for supplying water to the mill.
These had included using the Wellington Dam as the only source as well as mixing Wellington Dam water with water drawn from the Brunswick River.
It had also looked at building a new pure water dam from scratch on the Brunswick River.
The consultants had calculated that, depending on the scale of the construction, a water treatment plant for the Wellington Dam could add between $17 million and $39 million to the mill's final capital cost.
"But this would be cheaper than building a large new dam to supply the mill," Mr Taylor said.
"To produce 450,000 tonnes of paper pulp annually the mill would need between 15 and 18 million cubic metres of water - about half the surplus amount available from Wellington Dam for industrial purposes.
"But mill design is now advancing so quickly that with new technology we may find that much less water is needed, and that much of what is used can be recycled.
"In any case, even at the higher level of extraction there would still be more than enough water left to meet irrigation needs of farmers in the Collie irrigation district."
Mr Taylor said the Government recognised the current recreational value of Wellington Dam and assured South-West people that the dam water levels would be monitored.