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  • Rikki Lambert

SA government goes for cheaper Boston Bay EP desal option after green tick

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

The proposed desalination plant will be situated centre left of picture, not away in the upper right distance

The South Australian government has announced that SA Water advised them to proceed with a desalination solution for the Eyre Peninsula at Billy Lights Point in Boston Bay, not at the site nominated by an independent committee.

The estimated construction cost at Billy Lights Point is $313 million, whereas the government says it will cost SA Water customers statewide an extra $150 million to construct a desalination plant at Sleaford West , on the southern Eyre Peninsula. The Sleaford site was the one chosen by the site selection committee appointed by the former Marshall Liberal government, led by then retiring Liberal local MP for Flinders, Peter Treloar.

Water Minister Susan Close told FlowFM on Thursday:

"... we don't have a spare $150 million and I'm not sure that water payers across South Australia want to pay that additional amount to move it. But most importantly, we've done an additional study to check what the impact of salinity coming out of a desalination plant would be at the Billy Lights location. 
"SARDI reports find that the variability would be less than you see naturally occur occurring in that area. So you're not going to have that additional salinity load above that normal variation, which is about 4 per cent. It varies from time to time. It would only be a bit over 1 per cent variability due to the desalination plant. So that's just to really reinforce that there is nothing wrong with Billy Lights Point as a location environmentally, and it's much, much more affordable." 

The SA Water minister had previously told Flow listeners the state government was exploring possible federal funding to assist in determining the site of the plant.

On Friday, local MP for Flinders, Sam Telfer, expressed frustation at the Minister's decision:

"Honestly, it's disappointing that the perspectives of the locals as far as a location has been ignored ... the process which has been followed (initiated by) the previous water minister, David Speirs, in recognition that Billy Lights Point really wasn't supported by Aquaculture, the local fishing community, the site selection committee comprised of industry and community leaders and local government put forward a preferred location for an alternative spot for this desal plant. 
"In Port Lincoln itself, it's known as the seafood capital of the state and within the Bay Area, which Billy Lights point is, we've got tuna farms, we've got kingfish farms, we've got mussels. There's all sorts of industry which relies on there being a proper balance within in the bay area there. That's why the community, the industry, they all preferred the location at Sleaford West."

Minister Close indicated that the proposed desalination plant would be modular with an initial 5.3 megalitre capacity, with the capacity to expand. The need for expansion to cover broader Eyre Peninsula water supply needs will be reviewed as the Northern Water Study develops on a potential desalination plant at Whyalla and a review of the capacity of the existing water supply line from the River Murray to deliver water from that plant to the region.

Hear the full interview on the Flow podcast player below:


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