Peace pipe: Water Minister floats Murray proposal

Thursday, 27th November, 2014

By By Andrew Robertson

A proposed pipeline to the Murray River was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to secure Broken Hill’s water supply, according to Water Minister Kevin Humphries.

The State Government has revealed it is considering the pipeline as a permanent fix for the city and its reliance on an increasingly precarious supply from the Darling River. 

The proposal is the largest of around 70 water projects across country NSW under consideration as part of a new $1 billion regional water security and supply fund.

Broken Hill and Cobar are in line to take the lion’s share of the funding after they were identified as being the most vulnerable communities in the state in terms of water security. 

“Broken Hill has been identified as one of two high priority locations for the development of sustainable water security solutions and the NSW Government 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,” Mr Humphries said in a statement.

“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.”

While a final decision on the project is still months away, the minister said the pipeline would solve the city’s water supply issues once and for all.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fix Broken Hill’s water supply (for) the long term,” Mr Humphries told ABC Radio yesterday.

“If you want to grow let alone sustain a community, it’s got to happen.” 

While pumping water from the Murray to the city had previously been mooted, the project now stacked up better under cost-benefit analyses, he said.  

Not only would it offer the most secure supply, but it would also effectively replace the ageing and costly-to-run Menindee pipeline.

He said it was too early to put a cost figure on the pipeline but suggested the project would run into “several hundred million dollars”.

Despite this the minister ruled out the project leading to higher water charges for residents, saying the government would not put up a proposal that “wasn’t affordable”.

A community consultative committee will be formed before the government makes a final decision on whether to commit to the project by mid to late February.

“We want the community to work alongside the Government on all the projects that have been announced and those that are being examined, and through the (consultative committee) local residents will have the opportunity to have their say,” Mr Humphries said.

The minister also revealed yesterday that he had spoken to the Murray Darling Basin Authority about redefining the trigger level at which the Menindee Lakes reverts to State control.

He said while the current trigger was supposed to give Broken Hill 18 months’ supply, not all of the water was accessible for pumping. 

“There needs to be a redefining off what those rules mean.”