House of Assembly - Tuesday, 22 March 2011, Page 2989

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (17:45): I take this opportunity late in the day to very quickly put some things on the record. I, like others on this side of the house, rise to support the Safe Drinking Water Bill. It is very timely, I believe, that this bill has come along. Water has been a topic of much discussion right around the state and certainly on Eyre Peninsula.

I mentioned water security in my maiden speech in this place just under 12 months ago, and I highlight today the importance of not just safe drinking water but also good drinking water. On Eyre Peninsula, we have quite a unique system, which was originally sourced from the Tod Reservoir, a source that has now been taken offline due to high salinity levels. I appreciated the Minister for Environment and Conservation, at my invitation, visiting Flinders in recent weeks and taking the opportunity to visit that reservoir with me to highlight the situation out there and to view its infrastructure and catchment and also to discuss the future role for that particular reservoir in our ongoing water security; we await the findings of the minister and SA Water on that.

With that reservoir being taken offline, we now have 85 per cent of our water supply coming from what we call the southern basins, which is a series of underground lenses south of Port Lincoln. The other 15 per cent, as mentioned by the member for Hammond, comes from the River Murray, as a result of the extension of the pipeline from Iron Knob out to Kimba. It was quite controversial at the time; I know the previous member for Flinders was quite concerned about that extension of the pipeline. As it happens, it would seem that there is ample river water in the River Murray to supply that extra 15 per cent to Eyre Peninsula.

There are some quality issues around the water sourced from the southern basins. The water travels up to 400 kilometres from just west of Port Lincoln all the way to Ceduna, and it is high in calcium. The southern lenses are enclosed within calcium carbonate, or limestone aquifers and, as a result, the water that is drawn from those lenses is highly calcareous. The difficulty is that, as the water travels north, it warms up in temperature.

During summer, the water warms to a point where the calcium carbonate particles begin to settle out and it becomes solid, solidifying the pipes and, ultimately, it can block up water pipes on particular properties and in homes. It is particularly severe on home hot water services. I understand that on Upper Eyre Peninsula the hot-water services that are using the SA Water supplied resource have a very limited life span. So, therein lies the discrepancy, as I see it, between safe water, which this undoubtedly is (it meets all the qualities required of it to be of a potable standard) but it is not necessarily good water.

We have had on Eyre Peninsula in the last two years significant recharge into those southern basins as a result of wet winters and also wet spring conditions. So, I am expecting the current review into water restrictions on Eyre Peninsula to come back with a positive outcome. We are still sitting on level 3 water restrictions; the minister, once again, has given an undertaking to review that. My understanding is that water levels in the basins have risen 0.4 of a metre, which is significant, given the size of the basins; a lot of water has been added to those basins in the last two years.

The member for Hammond and other members have mentioned third-party access to SA Water infrastructure, and I believe this is imperative. It will give the opportunity for small suppliers, and I am thinking particularly about communities and towns around the coast of Eyre Peninsula, such as Ceduna, Streaky Bay, Elliston, Tumby Bay, Port Neill, Arno Bay, Cowell—the list goes on. I believe they all have the opportunity to install relatively small desal plants purely and simply to supply their own small community's local townships. In order to do this, it would be appropriate for those suppliers to have third-party access to SA Water infrastructure. Thus far this has been denied.

I understand that the government at some point in the near future is going to lay this on the table, and I would very much support that. I understand that the District Council of Ceduna is having discussions with a particular company at the moment and is expecting a small desal plant to be installed some time in the near future, providing all the ducks can be lined up, so to speak, and that that water provider will put water into the Ceduna township. It will be a test case.

The company is able to do that without using SA Water infrastructure, but I think it will be interesting to see how that goes for a stand-alone enterprise. They are quite sure that it can be profitable, achievable and can provide the required outcome. I support the Safe Drinking Water Bill, bearing in mind that there are some bigger issues at stake around water security in the long-term, particularly as we hopefully expand industries and population in the regional areas, and that needs to be borne in mind all the time.