Plans by the NSW government to build a pipeline from the Murray River to Broken Hill to shore up the city’s water security have triggered opposition in South Australia due to concerns about the project’s potential impact upon regional supply.
Kevin Humphries, NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water, has announced that the construction of a pipeline extending from the Murray River to Broken Hill has been included as a high priority project for consideration by the state government as part of its $1 billion Regional Water and Security Fund.
"Broken Hill has been identified as one of two high priority locations for the development of sustainable water security solutions and the NSW will now examine very closely the proposal put forward by Infrastructure NSW for funding for the infrastructure that will finally deliver long-term water security to the city," said Humphries.
"Among the options proposed by Infrastructure NSW include a pipeline to Broken Hill from the Murray River that will secure future water supply, protect the amenity of the Menindee Lakes and grow and sustain a diverse range of local industries."
The $1 billion Regional Water and Security Fund has been established to address water supply issues in communities throughout NSW, including problems with potable water quality, the need to satisfy the water demand of increasing populations; drought security and dam safety.
While the fund may bring much needed succour to water-deprived communities in NSW, plans for a Murray River pipeline are not so welcome outside of the state.
Tim Whestone, MP for Riverland in South Australia, said supplying communities in western NSW with water from the Murray River is not a sustainable plan and would threaten supplies in his own state.
Whestone instead advocates improving management of the Menindee Lakes system near Broken Hill, with a focus on the reduction of evaporation.
"The New South Wales government are not prepared to look at ways that they can improve efficiencies at Menindee and instead are just looking at the Murray as the water cow that they can keep on drawing from," he said. "I think it's time that we actually address the issues in western New South wales and stop looking at the River Murray as the water source to fix all problems."
Victorian water minister Peter Walsh also expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the pipeline plan, and the ramifications for the Menindee Lakes system in particular.
"We have a significant interest in what happens in Menindee, because it is a contributor to the southern basin and Victoria," he said. "Depending on how much water is in Menindee, Victorian irrigators at time benefit from that."
Kevin Humphries emphasised the importance of a Murray pipeline to the future development of western NSW, noting that the Menindee Lake systems only have another 14 months of water for the town.
"If the Murray pipeline is a reality, it opens up a world of other opportunities in that part of the world that should benefit the locals and also the region," he said.