Michelle Lensink

RESERVOIR MANAGEMENT - SA Water Protocols

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minster for Water and the River Murray on the subject of reservoir protocols.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: At the outset I would like to once again thank the minister for his offer of providing me with a briefing, which I note has been moved from this week to next week, but I am still greatly looking forward to it. In light of the events of two weeks ago my questions for the minister are:

1.What specific changes have been made to SA Water's protocols in relation to the current weather events?

2.Has the minister received his report from SA Water yet into the event of two weeks ago?

3.To what extent has the north-south interconnector been utilised to manage water in the dams, or is that like the Adelaide desalination plant, an unused asset or, in the common parlance, a white elephant?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:21 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. It gives me an opportunity to correct some of the commentary that has been run on the wireless today by members of the opposition.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Talk about the protocols.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: He is not going to talk about difficult stuff.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: We could always talk about difficult stuff, the Hon. Mr Ridgway, but you might be a bit embarrassed by it. The government has—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has the floor.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Mr President, you have the Hon. David Ridgway in this place saying that members on this side are jokes.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: I am worried about the future of this state.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: And you have this character running around not worrying about the future of the state but worrying about the future of the backbench and who is going to get a spot on the backbench and who is going to miss out on a spot on the backbench. That is what the Hon. Mr Ridgway has been doing, but we will leave that for another day because there is more to be said about those stories, apparently. It is clear that members opposite do not understand and do not appreciate the issues to deal with—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Leader of the Opposition—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: Please chuck me out.

The PRESIDENT: I like having you in front of me where I can see you. Allow the minister to finish his answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President, for your protection. It is clear from some of the commentary on the wireless today from opposition spokespeople, and those who pretend to be opposition spokespeople, that they don't understand the water system, they have no clue about how it operates. They do not understand water policy, and the public should be very concerned about Steven Marshall's plans for securing Adelaide's critical water needs. The fact is, they have no plan, they have no plan at all, and that was shown up today when the Hon. Ms Lensink was on the wireless on, I think, Mr Leon Byner's show where he asked about her plan and she said, 'They are coming soon. We haven't got them yet.'

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: It's called due diligence.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Due diligence, something the opposition would know an awful lot about. They are certainly going through due diligence in their candidate selection, they are going as far as Singapore to get someone who has not lived here for 20 years.

An honourable member: Unbelievable.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: It is unbelievable, but that is what they have been reduced to. They are so desperate for a plan that they are out saying—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Allow the minister to finish his answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: They were out saying, 'We don't actually have a water plan', and, 'It's coming soon'—according to the Liberals their water plan is coming soon. We will wait and see with some eagerness what they are going to put before their community.

In terms of SA Water planning for weather events predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology, I can say that SA Water has been in contact with BOM over this week about these events. Contact was made again with BOM, I am advised, on Monday morning at approximately 10.30am. At the time, the BOM advised that there was potential for a significant weather event over Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29, clearing by Friday 30 September.

I was advised that rainfall could be similar to that received on Wednesday 14 September. A flood watch notification was issued at 11.52am on Monday 26 September, stating that rainfall totals within the system are expected to be 30 to 60 millimetres across the Mid North, Mount Lofty Ranges and Adelaide Metropolitan districts watch area, with some falls of 50 to 100 millimetres possible.

In response to this notification and in the knowledge that the catchment surface is currently saturated from the previous week's rainfall event, SA Water commenced a release of water from Mount Bold at approximately midday on Monday 26 September. The reservoir was approximately 90 per cent full at midday on Tuesday 27 September, I am advised. After further consultation with BOM, SA Water had continued releases overnight on Tuesday 27 September and Wednesday morning, 28 September. The current discharge rate, I am advised, is 6,850 megalitres per day. This release rate will drop the level of the reservoir to approximately 82 per cent by midday today.

If inflows are received in line with the rainfall event of 14 September, SA Water anticipates that the water requiring release from the reservoir will be significantly below the levels that were released during the event due to additional available storage. However, it is important to note that there are creeks that empty water into the Onkaparinga catchment downstream of Mount Bold reservoir that can significantly influence the water level in the river.

During significant inflow events, SA Water aims to operate the reservoir to match outflow to anticipated inflow to maintain reservoir levels. Failure to do so could result in uncontrolled overflow of the reservoir, potentially impacting the structural integrity of the dam. SA Water will continue to receive updates from the BOM as the event progresses, and this information will be used to refine the Mount Bold management strategy, including further releases, if required.

Members of the community concerned about potential flooding should contact the State Emergency Service on 132 500 as the coordinating authority for flood events in the state. It is important to state that these are the usual protocols in place for SA Water when the catchment has been wetted up to the extent that it was last week. I think the other question the honourable member asked was if I had received my report yet from SA Water about last week's events, and the answer to that is not yet.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: And the interconnector?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The interconnector was built, as the honourable member should really know, to maximise the flow between the reservoirs and the provision of water through the desal plant and all of our catchments, essentially, and to level them up across the north and south of Adelaide. I can inform honourable members who don't know that in fact there was no interconnection between the two water systems in the north and the south of the city of Adelaide until that interconnector was built.

It maximises our ability to be flexible with the water that is used across the system, and the demand and the time of year, but it certainly wasn't built to transfer large volumes of water from water reservoir to water reservoir. I am not even sure if that is technically feasible in a sufficient amount to make any impact whatsoever.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:28 ): I have a supplementary question arising from the answer. Has SA Water changed its protocols from two weeks ago?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:28 ): I have already answered that question. SA Water has a very well determined and highly complicated protocol, which the honourable member is going to be briefed on.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: I can't wait.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I'm sure she can't wait for that, Mr President, it will be incredibly informative for her and she may make some more well-informed comments on radio than the ones she made today.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Don't become a Donald Trump.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I don't think she will; she is too polite.

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