A $400,000 investment by the Western Australian Government will support the construction of three community desalination units, built to test new desalination technologies for improved climate resilience and sustainability in community water supplies.

A brackish water desalination unit will be installed in Katanning during summer 2022-23, as part of a network of demonstration sites to examine how the technology can help overcome seasonal variability, reduce reliance on scheme water and support community development.

The Katanning unit will supply 30kL per day of fresh water to augment services for three local parks, as well as other town infrastructure.

This summer a 100kL/day desalination unit will be installed at Merredin to service farm and town water needs, while a new 10kL/day salty groundwater system at Dumbleyung will service farm and town water supplies, as well as underpin repairs to the town’s swimming pool.

A further 30kL/day brackish water off-grid reverse osmosis unit will be installed at the Wongutha Christian Aboriginal Parent-Directed School at Esperance, as part of a collaboration with the Australian Government’s National Water Grid Authority.

Western Australia’s Minister for Water, Dave Kelly, said long-term statistics indicated an urgent need for diversified water sources.

“The long-term statistics show that WA is experiencing reduced rainfall due to the impacts of climate change, with a record 12 Water Deficiency Declarations announced just two years ago in the Wheatbelt,” Mr Kelly said. 

“This important work, supported by Water Corporation, will help to serve not only these first three communities but others in the future, as the technology is better understood and adopted throughout the state.”

The project received funding from the state’s WaterSmart Farms initiative, and is led by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in partnership with Water Corporation.

Project stakeholders will also undertake case studies to examine the lifecycle costs and efficiency of these new systems. 

The findings from the investigation will provide valuable information to assist regional communities and farmers to consider adopting the technology to build water resilience in a drying climate.

Desalination units use a reverse osmosis process to remove salt and impurities from groundwater to produce fresh water, suitable for livestock, crop spraying, horticulture and garden use.

A key component of the investigation will be the safe and efficient discharge of rejected water, so it does not damage the environment or affect downstream neighbours.

There has been increasing interest in on-farm desalination units in recent years, with more than 50 units established on Wheatbelt farms in the past three years.

Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and food, Alannah MacTiernan, said the trial project would further support primary producers’ growing interest in desalination technologies.

“This initiative is assisting our farmers and communities to build resilience in dry years by undertaking scientific research on how best to apply this technology to tap into benefits for rural businesses and the regions,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“While recent rainfall in the agricultural region has been favourable, now is the time to invest in how to future-proof farming operations and regional communities so they are set up and well-resourced to manage the dry years.

“The greater use of groundwater can also help lower the water table and reduce salinity.”

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