Desalination Plant

Desalination Plant

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:22): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of the environmental water provision required for the desalination plant funding.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:22): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of the environmental water provision required for the desalination plant funding.

 

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I understand that as part of the state's agreement with the commonwealth to receive $228 million for the desalination plant, South Australia has agreed to provide an average of 12 gigalitres, or some amount between 0 and 24 gigalitres, for water for the environment and up to 120 gigalitres over a 10-year period. My questions to the minister are:

1. Under what circumstances would South Australia provide 24 gigalitres in one year for environmental water?

2. From which component of South Australia's River Murray water entitlement is this environment provision taken and is it ever potentially part of our carryover provisions?

3. Can the minister guarantee that our efficient food producers will not be impacted?

4. What are the triggers for turning on the desalination plant?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:23): I thank the honourable member for her most important question—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —and the prompting from the honourable Leader of the Opposition—

The PRESIDENT: Which is out of order.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Which indeed it is, sir, and I will ignore them as I usually do. The offer of environmental water from SA Water up to the commonwealth was made, as I understand it, well over 12 months ago and that offer has not, as far as I am aware, been taken up by the commonwealth. The offer still stands, of course.

The matters in terms of the desal plant and when it will be utilised will essentially depend on the local climate and environment that we are in at the time. The government has always said, and I repeat now, that we will be using the cheapest possible water for the consumers of the water that SA Water provides, and the cheapest possible water is always reservoir water, water that falls in the Adelaide Hills catchment and is held in our reservoirs. The second cheapest is pumping water from the River Murray and, of course, the next cheapest or most expensive is the desal water option.

Honourable members will know that the desal water option is one that is essentially for us a guarantee of dependable water supply independent of the River Murray in times of drought and environmental crisis when water may not be in the river for us to pump into our reservoirs. Honourable members will also know that our reservoir levels, even when they are at their highest, still won't get us through a full year of full consumption of water without restrictions. So, we are always going to be dependent on one or the other of those water supplies.

The 50 gigalitre desal plant, as far as I understand it, was a proposition that was supported by both the Labor and Liberal parties.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: The 50 gigalitre one was, not 100.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Hon. Mr Brokenshire, if you weren't having your own private conversations in this place, you would have just heard that that is what I said. The extra 50 gigalitres give us the opportunity to provide half of Adelaide's drinking water supply in times of drought and, as I have said before—

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: At what cost?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —at an average cost, Mr Brokenshire, of about $30 per consumer per year. That is cheap insurance at any price, and that is one that I am sure most South Australians would be very happy to pay when we are back in a drought situation.

DESALINATION PLANT

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:26): A supplementary question arising from the answer: would the minister be able to provide to the chamber his workings and calculations behind his claim that it is $30 per person? Secondly, when he referred earlier to having made an offer to the commonwealth, does that mean that unless the commonwealth agrees in any given year to take the environmental water that it is not used for environmental purposes?

The PRESIDENT: Minister, I reckon there was a supplementary in there somewhere.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:26): Indeed, sir, and I will obey your ruling, as always, in these things. Yes, the calculations I think can be brought back. I will ask for those and bring them back to the chamber.

In terms of the environmental water, that is something we need to negotiate with the commonwealth. As I say, we have made that water available. They have not yet indicated to us that they will be wanting it.

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