Mines in northern South Australia rely on groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin and other smaller local aquifers. This water is expensive to extract, as harvesting can be slow in low-pressure zones, and salinity and other water quality issues can affect its use.
The availability and security of the water supply constrains the expansion of mining activity in region. There are also potential concerns around the environmental impact of groundwater extraction on underground basins and surface water.
The SA Government’s Copper Strategy plans to triple the state's copper production to 1 million tonnes per year by 2030. This is driven by forecast global demand for copper increasing from 25 million tonnes per year in 2015, to 40 million tonnes in 2030.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has identified the challenges and risks associated with supporting growth of regional industries.
Improving water infrastructure could help to unlock economic opportunities for industry, local communities and the environment.
Potential options to address the initiative include new sustainable water sources, such as improved bore access and desalination, including associated pipeline and distribution infrastructure.
A new sustainable water source is expected to improve water resilience and increase water supply to the northern parts of South Australia. There is an opportunity for new water infrastructure to also support pastoral and defence activities in the region, as well as local communities.
Public investment should consider the role of government in stimulating the delivery of infrastructure by the private sector, compared with direct infrastructure funding, ownership and provision.
Proponent to identify initiatives and develop options (Stage 2 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework).