SA Water is going ahead with planning and preparatory design for a new desalination plant at Billy Lights Points on the Eyre Peninsula, following the South Australian Government’s approval of the site.

This multi-million-dollar investment will provide a new reliable, climate-independent source of drinking water, to largely replace existing groundwater sources and the River Murray, and is critical to enabling economic growth.

SA Water’s Chief Executive, David Ryan, said Billy Lights Point is the best environmental, logistical and financially sustainable option to support the community.

“We know water security is a growing concern for the Eyre Peninsula, and this decision will give security to local residents and enable businesses to invest with confidence.”

As part of the comprehensive site selection process – including with a community-led independent site selection committee – considerable research has been undertaken over several years, with investigations conducted into more than 15 potential locations.

“Billy Lights Point best meets all the criteria to deliver water security needs of the region now and into the future, and is the most cost-effective and timely water security solution for the people of Eyre Peninsula,” Mr Ryan said.

“Additionally, preliminary research reviewed by a world-renowned six-member Marine Science Review Panel confirmed that with the right design, a desalination plant at Billy Lights Point can be built without impacting the local marine environment.

“We acknowledge that some members of the community won’t agree with this decision, but we are committed to working with stakeholders – particularly the aquaculture industry – to design a plant that can coexist with current operations in the inner bays.

“We sincerely thank the local community, including the members of the Site Selection Committee, for their considered contributions to date, which has further demonstrated the complexity and difficulties in finding a site that’s affordable, sustainable and has minimal impact to the natural environment.”

Mr Ryan said there was a funding shortfall for the committee’s preferred site of Sleaford West, with pathways for additional funding not guaranteed and likely to add at least another 12 months to the process, before construction could even begin.

“No site considered was without issue, but we’re confident this decision is in the best interests of the Eyre Peninsula community and we encourage everyone to come with an open mind and take a fresh look at the facts in relation to Billy Lights Point.

“We will ensure the local community continues to be engaged and informed about this important project, and with up to 230 jobs expected to be created through the construction of this new facility, we will be looking for as many locals as possible to be involved.

Once operational, the plant will be able to produce up to 5.3 gigalitres of water per year, with the ability to scale up if required, adding significant capacity to the network to enable economic growth in the region.

The South Australian Government has also indicated Infrastructure SA will undertake a concurrent process to determine whether the Northern Water Supply project can meet supply needs for the Peninsula, and SA Water will continue to play a role in those discussions.

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