150 The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Leader of the Opposition) (26 September 2019). Can the Minister for Environment and Water advise:
1. What is being done to ensure that Oodnadatta has clean drinking water following one of the driest winters on record?
2. If the minister is aware that children in Oodnadatta are being forced to use bore water to brush their teeth which is causing gum disease, their teeth to fall out and, in the past, has caused permanent disabilities to people who worked in Oodnadatta? What is being done about this?
3. Why the people of Oodnadatta are expected to pay tens of thousands of dollars per person each year for access to clean drinking water, given that the small desalination plant that opened in July was presented as 'delivering drinkable water in outback SA' at a cost of $4 per 20L of water?
4. If the government is trucking drinking water to Oodnadatta, how regularly that is occurring, how much does it cost and who is paying for it?
5. If it is the policy of SA Water to allow towns or communities that rely on local catchments and groundwater to simply go without clean water when these sources cannot provide enough usable water?
6. If SA Water has a plan to mitigate the risk of remote towns and communities running out of water as South Australia's climate changes?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): The Department for Environment and Water has advised that:
Oodnadatta is under the jurisdiction of the Outback Areas Community Authority (OCA). The OCA was established to act as a third tier of government for the purposes of receiving and administering funding for 36 remote communities, and to manage the provision of, and promote improvements in, public services and facilities for outback communities.
It is understood that the OCA installed a small reverse osmosis desalination plant and is responsible for the provision of drinking water stations in Oodnadatta. The water stations are coin operated, with their intended purpose being the provision of a drinking water supply to tourists passing through the town, and not to be a primary source of drinking water to the local community.
I am advised that SA Water has not carted any drinking water to Oodnadatta since 2013.
Oodnadatta is one of 19 non-drinking systems operated by SA Water, where the water supplied to the township is deemed unsuitable for drinking as it does not meet Australian Drinking Water Quality Guideline (ADWG) criteria. Operation of non-drinking systems such as that at Oodnadatta are governed by the Water Industry Act 2012.
As a public corporation, subject to economic regulation by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA), and consistent with National Water Initiative Pricing Principles developed by the Australian government and state and territory governments in 2010, a general principle is applied to the provision of infrastructure and services whereby the end user, or main beneficiary pays.
I am advised that under current and previous governments SA Water has investigated a range of possible options for upgrading the Oodnadatta water supply over recent years, with each requiring considerable financial investment.
Residents of Oodnadatta are regularly advised by SA Water that the water supply is not suitable for drinking or brushing of teeth. None of the parameters associated with gum disease, tooth loss or permanent disability are present in the water if ingested.
I understand that SA Water is proposing to upgrade a number of non-drinking supplies in regional areas to a drinking water standard as part of its 2020-24 regulatory submission to ESCOSA. SA Water anticipates receiving advice from ESCOSA on whether expenditure on upgrading these supplies is approved to be undertaken in the next regulatory period in early to mid-2020.