Could north-western Australia supply water to Perth and Adelaide?
A scheme to supply water to Perth and Adelaide from north-western Australia has been put forward by Western Australian author and social commentator Brian Peachey.
Mr Peachey, who is heading a team of candidates for WA’s upper house in the state’s September 6 election, wants the Commonwealth, WA and SA governments to fund a pipeline and pumps to take water from the Ord River Dam at Kununurra to Kalgoorlie, and to extend the pipeline across the Nullarbor to South Australia.
He proposes that, to prepare for what could be a post-petroleum world, the pump stations required on the pipeline should be powered using the latest solar energy technology. The climate of the pipeline route is particularly suitable for the use of solar energy.
The Ord River Dam has a storage capacity of up to 35,000 gigalitres. The average Murray-Darling Basin flow is 24,300 gigalitres per year.
The higher summer water consumption in southern Australia would come during the high rainfall in the Kimberley wet season, which supplies the Ord River Dam.
The dam could easily provide water annually to:
• Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Norseman (an estimated 12 gigalitres). These places are currently supplied by the existing Goldfields and Agricultural Water Supply (GAWS) pipeline.
• Western Australian agriculture (an estimated 15 gigalitres).
• Perth metropolitan supplement (an estimated 50 gigalitres).
• Adelaide metropolitan supplement (an estimated 50 gigalitres).
• Other centres along the route (an estimated 10 gigalitres).
This would take only 137 gigalitres out of the Ord River Dam.
From the Ord River Dam an appropriately designed and engineered pipeline should be laid adjacent to the Great Northern Highway as far as Halls Creek, then broadly follow the old Canning Stock Route across the Great Sandy Desert and the Little Sandy Desert. Then, subject to a full survey, and avoiding Aboriginal reserves, it should follow a straight course to the town of Wiluna.
The final stage would be adjacent to the road, passing through Leinster, Leonora and Menzies to Kalgoorlie. Alternatively, it could be laid adjacent to the gas pipeline from Wiluna to Kalgoorlie. There is an existing water pipeline from Kalgoorlie to Kambalda and Norseman.
Subject to survey, the route would have favourable gravity benefits. There would be no need for costly resumption of private land. The length of the pipeline would be approximately 2,100 kilometres.
The existing GAWS pipeline from Perth to Kalgoorlie would carry water in a reverse direction to Mundaring Weir, serving the agriculture area and supplementing the needs of Perth and suburbs.
The valuable mining industry and the processing of the gold and nickel ore in the eastern goldfields, adjacent to this route, would benefit from the provision of potable water.
Extending a pipeline from Norseman to Esperance would do away with the suggested CO2-producing desalination plant.
To also service South Australia, a pipeline should be laid adjacent to the rail line across the Nullarbor – either directly to Port Augusta or through Ceduna and Whyalla – to link up with the South Australian reticulation network. The length of this route is approximately 1,500 kilometres.
The cost of laying a partly submerged pipe would be comparatively lower than in other parts of the world. It would travel mainly over relatively flat terrain.
It is estimated that the cost of the pipeline from the Ord River Dam to Kalgoorlie – including solar-operated pump stations, increased storage at Kalgoorlie and reversed pump stations on the GAWS pipeline – would be approximately $2.5 billion.
The cost of the pipeline is an estimate, partially based on the 2004 study into replacing the existing Pilbara-Kalgoorlie gas pipeline, which though smaller in size, would be similar in length.
It can be argued that a canal may be preferable to a pipe for engineering and cost reasons. In November 2004, Tenex estimated that the proposed 3,700-kilometre canal from Fitzroy Crossing over a more complex route could be laid for $2 billion.
The cost of extending the pipeline to Port Augusta in South Australia including solar-operated pump stations, has been broadly estimated to cost $1.5 billion.
The capital cost of the pipeline, pumping and purification plants should be considered as an investment in national infrastructure and not as a component in assessing the immediate or future cost of the water provided.
– News Weekly staff writer.