17/12/2008 - 22:00

Pilbara water supply key

17/12/2008 - 22:00

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WITH mining activity in the Pilbara forecast to double over the next ten years, demand for water in West Pilbara could outstrip long-term supply within the next two to six years.

WITH mining activity in the Pilbara forecast to double over the next ten years, demand for water in West Pilbara could outstrip long-term supply within the next two to six years.

According to its regional water plan for the Pilbara, released last week, the Department of Water believes demand will outstrip long-term supply between 2010 and 2015.

The Water Corporation is considering other sources to supplement the Millstream aquifer, including the possible expansion of the Yule and De Grey borefields, as part of the strategy to secure additional water supplies for industry and residents in the region.

"The Water Corporation has begun next-source identification and planning for both schemes," Department of Water Pilbara regional manager Hamid Mohsenzadeh said.

"We believe there are examples where water may not be being used as pro-actively as it can be."

"We are trying to find out what alternatives are out there so we can make recommendations to Infrastructure Australia, but first we have to demonstrate there are viable options."

Mr Mohsenzadeh said Infrastructure Australia looked to the Pilbara as an economic growth region and was a viable source of funding to solve supply issues.

"There is the possibility for extra water, for example dewatered ground water. We need to make sure this is being used properly."

Water Corporation north-west regional business manager Evan Hambleton said the corporation already used the Hillstream Borefield and the Harding Dam but was looking for another source of potable water. "With all the growth up here, we will be looking for another source," he said.

The economic downturn had taken some pressure off the demand side, but there was still a pressing need to match demand with supply.

Mr Mohsenzadeh said ultimately, plans to protect the long-term supply of water in the region would involve legislation.

"[Legislation] would ensure the proper balance is struck between industry and government to get the right outcome," he said.

While depleting water supplies in the Pilbara pose a threat to business and community, Mr Mohsenzadeh said people were aware of the issues.

"I think the whole country and state is very much aware of the issues around water supply and climate change," he said.

"The whole country needs to change the way it uses and treats water."

The Pilbara water plan highlighted how soaring demand for water exacerbated the region's semi-arid climate. The majority of the water comes from the groundwater supply. This is fed by rainfall, which is extremely variable, and cyclonic conditions.

Climate change is considered a threat to weather patterns, with fears it will decrease the number of cyclones in the area.

The water plan was commissioned after the Pilbara was identified in 2007 as second in WA's priority list for water supply.

It outlines a 25 year plan to manage water resources in the region, with five and 10-year reviews.

The plan prioritises finding new sources of water, while encouraging conscientious usage of water, integrated land use, infrastructure and natural resource management with water planning.

Recommendations in the plan are open for public and industry comment until March 23.

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