Pulp mill to use ancient aquifer

Opposition result of misunderstanding: "The other users of the lower aquifer are industrial or township users," said Hanna. "There are not many industrial users in the area, but there are one or two townships that use it. This just makes it all the more important that we get this bit right, because we do not want that underground aquifer to be diminished unduly when communities actually rely on it for their drinking and household water.

Grape growers and irrigators fearful: A lot of concern was expressed by farmers and other water users in the Penola region about the significant water allocation to the mill. Some of that concern was based on a misunderstanding that the allocation of water was from the top aquifer, which is where the grape growers and irrigators generally get their water.

Top already overallocated: "In respect of the top aquifer, there are a number of areas around Penola where the water is already overallocated (in other words, there is an unsustainable drawing of water), and there are also a lot of bores where the trigger levels have been reached.

Bores have tried out: "These trigger levels are simply measurement points where the sustainability of the bore is threatened. There are many bores in the region not far from the mill where those trigger points have been exceeded. In other words, for some water users around Penola, and around the area where the mill will be situated, there are real problems in drawing sufficient water for their crops, their orchards, etc".

Problem of possible aquifer interconnection: "The problem really arises if, indeed, there is some sort of interconnectivity between the upper and lower aquifers," Hanna said. "If there is heavy additional use of the lower aquifer, and if there is a connection or a leakage between the two, there will be additional pressure on the upper aquifer. There was some evidence of such interconnectivity. Mr Glen Harrington, a long-time public servant and now independently an expert consultant in relation to water resources, acknowledged some interconnectivity. However, our science is simply not at the level where we can determine what or even where it is. But there is probably some sort of leakage between the upper and lower aquifers in the region not far from where the mill will be and where Kalangadoo, for example, draws its water.

Scientific basis for caution: So there is a scientific basis for some real concern about additional large allocations of water from the underground aquifer. Water has only been cautiously allocated from that aquifer. I set out all that information because of the real concerns of a number of existing water users, particularly of the upper aquifer. If we find out in future that there is substantial leakage from the upper to lower aquifer, we will have to revise the allocation policy for the lower aquifer, including that for industrial users such as the mill, in future. These are the concerns that led the committee to recommend that the government have the ability to reduce water allocation to the mill but not increase it."

Reference: Kris Hanna, Member for Mitchell, Political Party, Independent, House of Assembly, South Australia, 11 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 16/9/2007

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