Revision of Eyre Peninsula Water Allocation Plan to commence

News article |

Work will begin immediately on a revised water allocation plan to sustainably manage water allocations on the Eyre Peninsula to address a significant decline in the region’s available fresh underground water resources.

The Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board decided at a Board meeting yesterday (April 10) to immediately commence a combined review and amendment of the water allocation plan for the region’s prescribed groundwater resources.

This decision comes after annual scientific investigations and modelling from the Department for Environment and Water highlighted that underground water resources in the southern basins will no longer be able to sustainably meet the demands for water supply on Eyre Peninsula in the short term.

It is intended the revised plan, which will set out the rules for managing the use of prescribed water resources in the region for the next decade, will be submitted to the Minister for consideration by the end of 2025.

This will allow new water licences to be issued in July 2026, up to a year earlier than would otherwise have occurred if separate review and amendment processes were undertaken.

As a major water licensee in the region, and the only licence holder for the Uley South, Uley Wanilla and Lincoln South basins, the Board has advised SA Water of the change in timing for the water licences. Other water licence holders and key stakeholders will be advised and engaged part of the revision of the plan.

Uley South Basin which supplies most of the water used across the Eyre Peninsula including in homes, schools, hospitals, local government and industries such as agriculture, aquaculture and mining, recorded water levels ‘below’ or ‘very much below average’ in almost half of its wells during the past 12 months.

This was despite rainfall in 2021 and 2022 being well above average.

The latest data shows long-term rainfall is decreasing, and the ongoing impacts of climate change are projected to cause lower rainfall resulting in reduced groundwater levels and increased salinity.

To address the issue, amendments are expected to be included in the new plan that will significantly reduce SA Water’s pumping allowance from the Southern Basins.

It is expected that this reduction will improve the long-term sustainability of the resource by enabling water levels to stabilise and thereby minimising the risk of seawater intrusion.

The Board also considers it likely that the volume of water SA Water will be allocated to extract from Uley Wanilla Lens and Lincoln Basin will be very low and possibly zero, as both are under extreme stress and are no longer viable water sources. The Board is investigating options for further restricting take from these two resources sooner if required.

Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board General Manager Jonathan Clark said the Uley South Basin needed to be managed in a sustainable way because it was the region’s most important groundwater source and current primary source of drinking water.

“The Uley South Basin is under stress, with water currently being drawn from the aquifer at unsustainable rates,” Mr Clark said.

“If water extraction at current rates continues, forecast modelling from the Department for Environment and Water shows there is an increasing risk of further environmental decline.

“This includes potential irreversible damage caused by salinisation from too much seawater getting into the basin or water being drawn up from the lower saline aquifer. We simply cannot afford to let that happen.

“We are already observing increases in salinity in some of the production bores, which is a concerning sign.”

Revision of Eyre Peninsula Water Allocation Plan to commence
A map showing the southern water basins that currently supply southern Eyre Peninsula.

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