A Water Corporation investigation into a new drinking water source in Exmouth, Western Australia, is considering potential options including sustainable groundwater sources, a small-scale seawater desalination plant, or a combination of both.

The new water source is designed to support the continued development and prosperity of one of Australia’s tourism towns.

In assessing available options, Water Corporation will consider delivery timeframes, environmental sustainability and long-term community benefit. A preferred option is expected in late 2024.

Growing demand is placing pressure on existing groundwater sources that supply the Exmouth Water Supply Scheme, requiring an additional source to supplement supply.

The scheme currently supplies about 3,000 residents along with a significant number of tourists, who visit the region each year. Seasonal fluctuations in demand can mean the scheme often operates close to capacity.

Water Corporation will continue working with the Exmouth community to ensure sustainable use of existing water resources. This includes targeted engagement with large water users, irrigation audits, enhanced leak detection, and ongoing waterwise community offerings including irrigation controller programming, plumbing retrofits and fixture repairs.

With increased population and economic growth, it’s estimated Exmouth will need an extra 500 million litres to meet demand to 2050.

At the same time, CSIRO modelling predicts climate change will lead to higher temperatures, more extreme weather events and less reliable rainfall across the region.

Water Corporation will work closely with government agencies, the Shire of Exmouth, Traditional Owners and environmental groups throughout the planning and delivery of the project.

$1 million has been secured from the Federal Government’s National Water Grid Authority to support initial investigations.

Western Australian Water Minister, Simone McGurk, said, “Water sources in Exmouth are under pressure due to growing demand and increasingly unreliable rainfall patterns. We’re acting now to ensure residents and visitors alike have secure, sustainable drinking water long into the future.

“Whichever option is selected, it needs to be sustainable. This means considering the future impact of climate change and the cost effectiveness of a new water source.

“Thorough planning takes time, and Water Corporation is engaging with key stakeholders to ensure the selected new source best supports the community’s long-term water needs,” Ms McGurk said.

Member for Mining and Pastoral Region, Peter Foster, said, “I support efforts to grow tourism and residential capacity in Exmouth, and these investigations support that vision.

“Securing sustainable water for this important north-west town is a priority of the Western Australia Government. Addressing demands on water into the future will support long-term development and prosperity of the town.”

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