My question is to the Minister for Water and the River Murray.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:08): What are the triggers for turning on the desalination plant?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (15:09): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The triggers are environmental.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:09): Supplementary question: can the minister be more specific, such as particular drought conditions or lack of flows down the Murray, or anything of that nature?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (15:09): SA Water has always said, and the government concurs, that the decision around turning on the desal plant will really depend on water available to South Australians at the time, and that of course will depend on how much water is in the Murray, how much is coming downstream from our arrangements with the Eastern States. It will depend on how much water is in our reservoirs and it will depend on the climatic conditions and the environmental conditions of the day.
We have always said that we will make a decision based primarily on using the cheapest source of water we can, and that, of course, is always going to be what is in our reservoirs. The next cheapest option is to pump from the river, but of course that requires using electricity, which is not cheap, to pump water from the Murray up and over the Hills and into our collection reservoirs.
They will be the prime conditions, but there will be a time again when we face significant long drought in this state. There will be a time when we do not have access to water in our catchment, because we all know that even when the reservoirs are full, there will only be sufficient water to get us partially through a hot and dry summer, for example, not enough for one year's supply, certainly. We need to top that up with water from the Murray, but if there is no water in the Murray, if there is no water coming down the Murray because of environmental conditions, then of course we will use the desal plant, because that is exactly why we built it—to give this state, South Australians, security over water into 2050.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Lensink has a supplementary question.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:10): So which takes priority? Is it environmental as in the minister's first answer, or is it the cost, as in his second answer?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (15:10): The two work together. The cost of delivering water from our reservoir system is the cheapest when there is water in the reservoirs. You have to understand, when the environmental conditions are such that there is no water in the River Murray and the water in the reservoirs has been drawn right down, that is when we will need to use the desal plant. It is the environment and the climate at the time and we will make the decisions based on that.