Broken Hill Water Supply

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of Broken Hill's water supply.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Last week an announcement was made by the New South Wales government regarding its decision in relation to how it will ensure Broken Hill's ongoing water security. One of the three short-listed options for this was a pipe from South Australia with treated water. My questions are:

1.How much is the South Australian government offering to contribute to its construction?

2.Was this government going to charge the same rate per kilolitre as for South Australian customers?

3.What would the impact on SA's SDL have been?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:35 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The New South Wales government has announced its preferred option to deliver a long-term water supply solution for Broken Hill. The Broken Hill region has suffered three droughts since 2003, resulting in severe water restrictions and short-term measures to secure additional supply.

This is an issue, of course, for the New South Wales government, which has to guarantee water security for its citizens, as you would expect. At the same time, the New South Wales government has investigated an exhaustive list of long-term water supply options. I am advised that a proposal that was put forward by SA Water and its delivery partner, Leed Engineering and Construction, was one of the three final options under consideration.

SA Water/Leed provided information to the New South Wales government under a mutual confidentiality agreement that enabled the New South Wales government to assess the proposal against other shortlisted options. I am advised that the SA Water/Leed proposal involved constructing a new pipeline that linked with the existing Morgan and Whyalla pipeline. The new pipeline was proposed to be constructed from just outside of Booborowie through to Broken Hill.

Under this option SA Water proposed to establish a long-term water treatment and transportation agreement with New South Wales. This means that water allocated to Broken Hill, under a New South Wales allocation, would have been transported by SA Water through the new pipe after being treated at the Morgan Water Treatment Plant in compliance with Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. I am advised that, after close consideration, the New South Wales government has opted to proceed with the alternate Wentworth pipeline solution to transport untreated water to Broken Hill and utilise the treatment plant that exists at Broken Hill.

SA Water accepts this decision, of course, and acknowledges the detailed evaluation process that led to it. I am advised that this decision has absolutely no impact on South Australian water allocations. If New South Wales is to supply Broken Hill using a pipeline either from Wentworth or South Australia we would remind them—and of course they understand, obviously—of their obligation to ensure that the 10 gigalitres or so of water required for Broken Hill occurs within the relevant sustainable diversion limit established by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It would always be the responsibility of New South Wales to source that water, as it would be for any other delivery purposes.

The state and government remains committed to working with any states, particularly the basin states, to make sure the basin plan is delivered on time, in full, and as promised, and South Australia stands ready to assist other states in the delivery of the plan.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:38 ): A supplementary: can the minister confirm whether the Broken Hill water would have been charged at the same rate as is charged to South Australian customers?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:38 ): I do not have the details of the proposal. My understanding was that this would have been a commercial operation for SA Water and, as such, the heavily discounted prices that are charged to South Australians would not apply.