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SA Water is set to explore more cost-effective site alternatives for its planned Eyre Peninsula seawater desalination plant, to assess other options compared to the current preferred position near Sleaford Bay.

While the site at Sleaford Bay continues to meet important environmental, social and cultural priorities, constructability challenges have emerged through the detailed design and engineering assessments for the plant and supporting infrastructure.

SA Water’s General Manager of Strategy, Engagement and Innovation, Anna Jackson, said while this location is not being ruled out, it’s important to test project plans to achieve the most efficient outcome for customers.

“Through a comprehensive investigation process, it was identified that the geological conditions at Sleaford Bay would prove challenging for construction of some of the infrastructure, requiring additional project costs,” Ms Jackson said.

“We will now explore whether there are other suitable locations in the region that would reduce construction costs, with any new site that is identified to undergo the same detailed assessment applied to the initial location.

“As a result of this change in the planning process, the initial expected date of late 2022 for when the plant will be operational and delivering water through the local distribution network, will also change.

“The final cost of the desalination plant and supporting infrastructure will be confirmed through the procurement process, with construction time frames to be determined in coming months and subject to standard State Government development and environmental approvals.

“Until the plant can be built, Eyre Peninsula residents can be assured their drinking water supply remains secure, with current modelling showing groundwater resources and the River Murray continue to meet demand.

“Given recent consecutive dry years for some parts of the region, we have already implemented minor water network upgrades to further increase reliability of supply, including the recent construction of a new ten-million-litre storage tank just out of Port Lincoln to bolster capacity.

“Diversifying supply with a climate-independent seawater desalination plant will ensure long-term water security and supplement the existing sources.”

As part of its ongoing engagement with the Eyre Peninsula community on future water security for the region, conversations with local stakeholders will again form a large part of SA Water’s alternative site assessment process.

“We will work with Lower Eyre Peninsula businesses and industry representatives, landholders, local Aboriginal communities and councils to help inform the identification of potential alternative sites,” Ms Jackson said.

“This widespread engagement will help ensure all interests are being taken into consideration and local knowledge is being used to add value to the project.

“If a new preferred location is identified, details will be presented to the wider community for feedback.

“Long-term drinking water security remains a priority for Eyre Peninsula communities, and that’s why it’s important to take the time to get this project right.”

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