The Western Australian Government has committed $37 million to lower salinity levels at Wellington Dam and expand irrigation in the state’s southwest under the Myalup-Wellington Water for Food project.

Western Australian Water Minister, Mia Davies, said the state government funding would be used for irrigation infrastructure including a redeveloped Burekup Weir and a new pipe network.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said Wellington Dam was the biggest surface water storage in the South-West – and the second biggest in the state, after the Ord – but rising salinity levels meant the water was mostly unusable, limiting agricultural growth in the region.

“This investment, through the Liberal National Government’s Royalties for Regions, builds on the existing $5.7 million Myalup-Wellington Water for Food project, which is investigating new water supply options for the South-West in order to expand the Myalup Irrigated Agricultural Precinct and the Collie River Irrigation District,” Mr Barnett said.

Ms Davies said the Collie Water solution, an initiative by Harvey Water and Aqua Ferre, was selected following an expression of interest process conducted in late 2015.

“The proposal involves the diversion of saline water from the Collie River east branch into a mine void; the treatment of that water in a new desalination plant near Collie; a new weir at Burekup and a gravity-fed pipeline system to replace open irrigation channels in the Collie irrigation district.

“The estimated cost of the Collie Water proposal is $380 million and will require funding from the private sector and the Commonwealth Government.”

The state government is seeking funding from the Australian Government through the National Water Infrastructure fund.

Western Australian Regional Development Minister, Terry Redman, said in a drying climate, the state was acting to ensure this important water resource was a strong driver of the state’s economy for decades to come.

“The project is expected to deliver billions of dollars’ worth of extra agricultural, horticultural and forestry revenue over 50 years and create jobs,” Mr Redman said.

“Through this $37 million investment, Royalties for Regions is setting the foundation for the sustainable development of agriculture that will bring great benefits to regional communities.”

The desalination plant would produce between 10 and 20 gigalitres per year of fresh potable water.

The existing Burekup Weir will be relocated upstream to ensure the delivery of gravity-fed water to growers.

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