FRUSTRATED Northern Adelaide Plains vegetable growers may soon get relief from the enormous water bills they have been faced with in recent years.
Those connected to mains water have been paying bills of up to $40,000 a quarter, but a solution is in sight for vegetable growers like Thang Hoang Le (also known as Kevin), Hillier, Day Van Dang and Daniel Hoffman, Penfield, who have been pushing for access to recycled water to irrigate their vegetables for several years.
An SA Water spokesperson said they were investigating the potential to connect growers in the Penfield area to the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme, via the construction of distribution mains to a transfer pipeline, providing them access to recycled water for horticulture irrigation use.
"We are having positive discussions with several growers in the Penfield and Two Wells areas who have expressed interest in receiving high quality recycled water from our NAIS," the spokesperson said.
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Based on grower feedback, SA Water said distribution mains would potentially be built to reach properties in northern Virginia, Penfield, Penfield Gardens, Angle Vale, Gawler River and Macdonald Park.
Mr Le said the construction of the new network would be a positive for both growers and the local community.
"We believe this would secure water for us and allow us to plan and grow our businesses," he said.
"With the expenses associated currently with the industry, farming is a big risk. If you don't get the prices you want, you lose money.
"With savings on our water bills, we can employ extra workers, make upgrades and invest in both our farms and the region. It will have multiple flow-on effects.
"This would eliminate a major production risk for us and give us more confidence going into the growing season.
"It also helps us be competitive with interstate farmers who are afforded all sorts of allowances."
Mr Van Dang, who runs a family greenhouse property on the Northern Adelaide Plains, said construction of new distribution mains would potentially allow the family farm to move to year-round production.
"Planning is very important for us," he said.
"In summer we don't touch our mains water because we can't afford to grow during that period of time, because what we grow demands such high water usage.
"Water prices have a big impact on our business."
We will provide an update to the local community in coming months on the feasibility of constructing a distribution network from the existing NAIS transfer main to Penfield and surrounding areas.
The SA Water spokesperson said they were encouraged by strong interest thus far, but would need to receive enough confirmed demand to make the project commercially viable to proceed.
"We will provide an update to the local community in coming months on the feasibility of constructing a distribution network from the existing NAIS transfer main to Penfield and surrounding areas," the spokesperson said.
To connect to the new scheme, growers would need to sign a water supply agreement and agree to one of two options: paying a one-off connection fee of $3.01 a kilolitre for their contracted volume, plus an annual availability charge (presently $0.25/kL) and an annual consumption charge (presently $0.26/kL) based on the metered volume of actual water use.
For a grower contracted to 10 megalitres a year, this would result in a once-off connection fee of $30,100, followed by an ongoing charge of $0.51/kL for water use over the course of the 15 year contract term - essentially $35,200 in the first year, followed by annual bills of $5100.
The second option for a grower contracted to 10ML a year would be to pay a 20 per cent connection fee ($6020) and be subject to an ongoing charge of $0.73/kL - essentially a $13,320 bill in the first year followed by annual charges of $7300.
While the connections fees are quite large, it pales in comparison to the water bills of growers connected to mains water, who are presently paying $3.34/kL, or $33,400 a year for a grower using 10ML.
The construction of the network would be funded through an existing partial subsidy from wastewater customers, charges from the new recycled water customers and a Commonwealth government grant from the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.
SA Water will hold a second community information session later this month for landholders primarily in the Gawler River area, as well as drop-in sessions in early September at their Virginia site office.
To find out more, visit the SA Water site office in Virginia, call 1300 SA WATER or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- This story first appeared on the Stock Journal.