THERE is potential to expand the horticulture industry by a further 3500 hectares on the Adelaide Plains, if a soon-to-be-conducted study finds the proposed Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme feasible.
Late last month, the Coalition government allocated $2.5 million to PIRSA to conduct a feasibility study into the benefits and costings of the scheme, which aims to create new irrigation areas on the Adelaide Plains.
At present, horticulture accounts for about 5500ha of the region. It is the largest greenhouse area in Australia, and the area is increasing by 5 per cent to 7pc annually.
The existing Virginia Pipeline Scheme delivers about 17 gigalitres of recycled water from the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant each year, used by about 350 irrigators, which also includes almond and grapegrowers.
But Hortex Alliance executive officer Bryan Robertson said the pipeline was already at capacity during summer and was in need of an engineering upgrade.
“The scheme aims to expand the pipeline’s capabilities,” he said.
“We hope that additional water can be used to pressurise the top end of the Virginia pipeline, so that during summer, the peak usage period, water comes in at a better pressure and will be able to go further. We hope to expand to regions such as Two Wells and, into the future, even as far as Port Wakefield, to service the emerging poultry industry in that region.
“We are also thinking it could extend into the Gawler region, to reduce reliance on the Gawler River. These extensions will hopefully mean new businesses, new employment and new infrastructure for those regions.”
The new areas will be facilitated by an extra 20gL of recycled water annually from Bolivar, which presently goes out to sea.
“We would like to make better use of this valuable resource,” Mr Robertson said.
But because about 12gL is available during the winter months, when demand is at its least, extra storages will also need to be investigated.
“There has been community concern about storing the recycled water underground in aquifers, which in some areas is water being used for household use,” Mr Robertson said.
“There has been community consultation meetings so these concerns could be put forward, and a set of guidelines has been developed from this consultation, which will soon be released.
“These new regulatory guidelines will set the rules of all aquifer recharge schemes on the northern Adelaide Plains into the future.”