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Households could receive individual reverse osmosis plants

Tuesday, 17th March, 2015

By Andrew Robertson

Small reverse osmosis plants may be plumbed into Broken Hill and Menindee households to treat salty bore water.

A State government employee reportedly told a community consultative forum last week that individual plants would be much cheaper to run than one or two large plants.

The government is considering using RO plants to treat bore water as part of a range of measures to secure town supply.

According to forum member Mark Hutton, the NSW Officer of Water staff member told the meeting that the RO plants would filter out “every single contaminant”.

He also suggested that fitting small RO plants to individual households would be the way to go. 

“He said that the cost would be significantly lower than the larger plants,” Mr Hutton said on the Menindee Lakes action group Facebook page. 

Water NSW yesterday confirmed the discussion, and said the feasibility and cost of using individual household RO plants would be considered “in due course”.

A spokesman said consideration would include ongoing maintenance and water quality monitoring, adequacy of supply volume, installation onto older plumbing, and responsibilities towards potentially vulnerable residents as well as the needs of industry.

Meanwhile, groundwater bore drilling at the Menindee Lakes is on track, according to the spokesman, who said all test bores were expected to be completed by the end of April. 

“Pump tests will be conducted on all of the test production bores and water quality analysis will be undertaken at all of the drilled sites,” he said.

According to a project bulletin, three bores are now part of investigations into the so-called Renmark Group aquifer, near Menindee.

Preliminary testing from the most positive of these deep bores has revealed a yield rate of around one megalitre per day is possible at about 15,000 EC (electric conductivity).

A total of six bores are expected to be drilled in the area.

Drilling also was expected to start on the weekend on a number of shallow bores on the Lake Menindee lake bed while 13 are to be sunk on the Talyawalka floodplain, about 20km south of Menindee.

As work to secure emergency water continues, Water Minister Kevin Humphries has given a guarantee the Menindee Lakes’ drought reserve trigger figure will not be lowered if the government is re-elected.

The minister attended last week’s forum meeting where he was asked why the NSW Office of Water was “continually talking” about reducing the lakes reserve trigger to 275 gigalitres or lower.

“The minister gave us a guarantee that the 480 gig reserve would not be lowered and could possibly be raised and that water would at all times be kept in the upper lakes,” Mr Hutton said.

Yesterday the minister said both he and Minister Greg Hunt were committed to ensuring that Broken Hill’s water supply was the first priority for the management of the lakes. 

“Maintaining a recoverable 18 to 24 month recoverable water supply is the position,” he said.

The government recently announced $117 million had been set aside to find the best short-term water source for the city.

The money would also be used to fund a business case to be delivered by the end of the year to investigate the most cost-effective and efficient solution to secure the town’s water supply in the long term.

If re-elected, the government has said it would commit $380 million to deliver a long-term outcome, which could include a pipeline from the Murray River.

“Combined, this represents a commitment of over $500 million, the largest single investment in securing a regional town’s water supply in the State’s history,” Mr Humphries said.

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