$1.5 million has been allocated by the Western Australian Government towards Watersmart Farms, a project to assist farmers to adopt self-sufficient water supply systems and build long-term drought resilience.

The Watersmart Farms project facilitates the rapid, widespread adoption of on-farm desalination plants in agricultural regions to process brackish groundwater into a suitable resource for livestock, crop agronomy and other agribusiness activities.

The project seeks to optimise desalination technology and its application in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions, including assessing the technology, economics and systems, identifying suitable groundwater resources, and investigating options for the disposal of brine.

Researchers will examine how to improve farm dams and catchments to provide water in dry periods, including undertaking a targeted drilling exploration program to locate suitable groundwater for desalination trials.

The project aims to attract future co-investment to support the development and adoption of innovative and sustainable water supply options.

Western Australian Agriculture and Food Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, said, “Watersmart Farms will encourage on-farm initiatives to build drought resilience, particularly through desalination.

“With a record 12 Water Deficiency Declarations in the agricultural region during 2020, the cost and efficiency of securing suitable water supplies has become a major challenge for farmers.

“This visionary project builds on work by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Water Corporation, Murdoch University and the Wheatbelt Development Commission to assess on-farm desalination infrastructure and the implications to businesses, regional economies and the environment.

“There are now more than 30 small desalination plants across the agricultural region, reflecting a thirst by farmers to invest in self-sufficient, reliable, quality water supply systems.

“The groundwork laid by this project will position WA as a strong partner for future co-investment in innovative water security solutions to create a more resilient and self-reliant farming sector that is better able to adapt to climate variability.”

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