SA Water has released indicative water prices for the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme, which have not only raised concerns about the cost but the potential for a flooded domestic market because of increased vegetable supply.
The NAIS is expected to deliver recycled water to the region in 2019.
SA Water has put forward a medium water price of 49 cents a kilolitre and up to 99c/kL for higher quality water, suitable for greenhouse systems, under the proposal.
Virginia greenhouse grower Con Laftsis said although he could use more water to expand production, he would not apply for a NAIS allocation.
“We use the Virginia Pipeline Scheme and our own bore and we are at capacity for water usage, but the cost of NAIS is too high; we would be better off on mains water,” he said.
“Capsicums are already at $4 a kilogram because of oversupply, so if the government keeps on supplying more water and infrastructure, it could do more harm than good.
“If we do not have export markets and our produce remains in Australia, then we are finished.
“It is great to have a new water scheme, but you can not build new farms and expand production without a cornered market.”
SA Water strategy, performance and innovation general manager Jim McGuire said the aim of NAIS was not limited to increased water supply, but to create a new northern Adelaide agri-food precinct that was sustainability and export focused.
“To determine NAIS indicative prices, we looked at what infrastructure was needed to deliver water to the Northern Adelaide Plains, the capital and operational costs, and we worked back from those points,” he said.
“The scheme is not just about the sale of water, it is about generating the best economic outcomes for the state and the potential purchasers for this water spread throughout the world.
“We do not want to add pressure to local growers, so we hope to set up opportunities for them to speak with investors and form partnerships, because the precinct will create a supply chain and access to markets.”
Ausveg SA state manager Jordan Brooke-Barnett said the potential water prices were unworkable for the horticulture industry.
“We should not be looking at this as a cost recovery or a revenue neutral project,” he said.
“Irrigation schemes are nation-building schemes that underpin the economy and right now that needs the stimulus more than the government.
“We will be working with industry to put forward a proposal to SA Water.”