The Western Australian Government yesterday launched an Expression of Interest (EOI) process to identify water sources in the West Pilbara.
According to the State’s Water Minister, Dr Graham Jacobs, the region is in urgent need of a new water source.
“The existing water supply scheme is completely reliant on cyclonic rainfall, something the region hasn’t experienced since early 2009,” he said.
“The job of finding new sources has for too long been put in the too hard basket.
“Through the EOI process, we will be able to make a fully informed decision on the next water source and be in a position to progress in a short space of time.”
The main water provider in Western Australia, the Water Corporation, currently sources its supplies from the Millstream Aquifer and the Harding Dam.
These sources are both dependant on regular rainfall.
“The current draw for the West Pilbara Water Supply Scheme is in excess of the long-term sustainable yield from these sources,” Jacobs said.
Securing water is a vital component of the Government’s Pilbara Cities plan, which aims to upgrade the infrastructure and amenities in the region’s towns, such as Karratha, Port Hedland and Newman.
The Minister for Regional Development Brendon Grylls said discussions with the mining industry on potential water source options had already been held.
“The Government is now formally asking all potential third-party suppliers to put their proposals on the table for consideration,” he said.
The Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) welcomed the move, saying water supplies were crucial to maximise the region’s growth.
The CME recently released a report, Water Resource Management – Issues and Priorities, which found state-wide water demand from the resource sector was forecast to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4%
This was mainly caused by an increase in self-extracted water demand.
The report claimed resource projects will require an additional 100 GL each year to 2020; equal to around one quarter of Perth’s current usage.
“The availability of water is set be a key driver of sector growth and we have identified the Pilbara as one of the regions where there will be a significant increase in demand,” CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said.
“For some time now, CME has called for greater planning and collaboration to optimise use of such a scarce resource.
“Member companies are already exploring the development of new water sources in the West Pilbara and the EOI process provides an opportunity to feed into an overall strategy for the region.”