Barossa Water Security Strategy
The Barossa Water Security Strategy was developed in partnership with a broad cross section of Barossa stakeholders and community members. The strategy relates to the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. It sets out a shared vision for the future and includes strategic actions to improve water security in the Barossa out to 2050.
Why is a water security strategy needed in Barossa?
The Barossa is a premium food, wine and agricultural region with a vibrant tourism sector and a successful grazing industry. Water availability has been key to the economic wellbeing of the region, as well as to supporting environmental, cultural and amenity values. The continued success of Barossa and its industries relies on access to secure, affordable and fit-for-purpose water for people, industry, agriculture, amenity, cultural values and the environment.
The Barossa has recently experienced water scarcity due to a number of consecutive dry years, with the impacts being particularly severe in the Eden Valley. Short-term measures have been put in place for irrigation and stock water, however the need for a long-term strategy around water security has been highlighted, especially in the context of a warming and drying climate.
In addition to a changing climate, factors such as global markets, digitisation, technology, consumer preferences and energy transition all contribute to an uncertain future. The development of a water security strategy is about building resilience, planning for uncertainty and ensuring opportunities can be capitalised upon.
The majority of climate projections show that the reliability of surface water and groundwater will decrease and environmental flows will decline. At the same time, irrigation water demand is expected to increase. With no action to address water security, the number of years when water demand exceeds supply is likely to be more frequent, putting current activity and a healthy environment at risk.
Findings and strategic actions
An opportunity exists to harness alternative water sources to underpin existing water demand and increase resilience to future drought. A long-term strategic approach has been taken to identify a suite of strategic actions, including alternative water sources that together will support current demand and future growth out to 2050. The strategy includes priorities for action identified by community members and stakeholder organisations.
Actions have been grouped into pillars and, in combination, support the achievement of the future vision for Barossa. Further detail is available in the strategy. Implementation of the strategy is now underway.
Most climate projections indicate a hotter and drier future where water availability from native water sources in Barossa will decline and irrigation water demand will increase. To meet the water needs of existing crops and water-related industries, additional imported water will be required. Modelling indicates that:
- If the current planted area and viticultural practices are maintained, the average irrigation water demand is projected to increase by 23% (3GL a year) under a mid-range climate scenario for the 2050s
- This increases to a 27% (4.4GL a year) increase under a high end climate scenario
- Under a mid-range climate scenario for the 2050s it is estimated an additional 8GL per year (5.7GL for Barossa Valley and 2.4GL for Eden Valley) will be needed to ensure on average there is no irrigation shortfall for the existing planted area in the driest years
- This increases to an additional volume of more than 14GL per year (10.2GL for Barossa Valley and 3.8GL for Eden Valley) under a high-end climate scenario
The strategy builds on from the strong sustainability focus in Barossa and, alongside increasing the volume of water available in Barossa, actions include on-farm demand-side management strategies, optimising storages and increasing flows through catchments, developing a healthy waterways plan, increasing the uptake of regenerative agriculture, increasing biodiversity, incorporating Aboriginal knowledge and wisdom into land and water management and exploring opportunities for a circular economy.
Developing water security strategies
Water security strategies aim to build on traditional water allocation planning processes (which apply to surface and groundwater resources) and link fit-for-purpose water supplies with existing and emerging water demands. The strategy development process allows new supplies, expansion of existing supplies and changing demand profiles to be considered in the context of a changing climate.
The process integrates strategic foresight and resilience-based planning. It purposefully takes a long-term view that considers the significant global, regional and local uncertainties anticipated to be faced in the future and plans for these in the context of water security.
Water security strategies aim to provide confidence to businesses and the community that there will be sufficient water supply options to support the future vision for their region, particularly in a changing climate.
The Barossa process
The process to develop a water security strategy for the Barossa was led by DEW in partnership with PIRSA, SA Water, the Environment Protection Authority, Northern & Yorke Landscape Board, Barossa Australia, Barossa Infrastructure Limited (BIL), The Barossa Council, Light Regional Council, RDA Barossa Gawler Light and Adelaide Plains.
Three workshops were held throughout 2021 to develop a shared vision for the Barossa and to consider pathways to achieve that vision under a range of future scenarios, with extensive research and analysis undertaken in between workshops.
In addition to workshops to identify a vision for Barossa in 2050 and actions to get there, an assessment of the current and future water security of the Barossa was undertaken by the University of Adelaide. This included quantifying the actions that have a direct impact on water supply or demand and modelling them under future climate scenarios with the results of analysis incorporated into the strategy.
- Assessment of current and future water security in the Barossa and Eden Valleys using the Climate Resilience Assessment Framework and Tools.
Consultation on a draft of the strategy was undertaken between May and July 2022. Feedback has been incorporated into the final version of the strategy. A consultation report is available setting out the feedback received and the changes made to the strategy as a result of feedback.
- Barossa Water ProjectsProcess description
- Update #1 – 5 July 2021
- Update #2 - 29 September 2021
- Workshop 2 - Scenario Slides
- Barossa Water Security Strategy published
The strategy development complements existing projects and brings together the different understandings of water use and availability in the Barossa to form a robust long-term plan to meet the region's future needs.
Other related water projects include:
New water infrastructure to Barossa and Eden Valley
The New Water Infrastructure to Barossa project was jointly funded by the Australian and South Australian governments.
A Detailed Business Case has been completed. The business case considered options for delivering new water infrastructure to the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. Due to the file size of the appendices, a copy of the full document can be provided upon request by emailing DEWWater@sa.gov.au.
The business case found evidence of potential grower demand for recycled water in Barossa, depending on price and water quality. However, further work is required to identify and secure additional volumes of Barossa demand for recycled water to ensure the viability of the project.
Following the release of the business case, the State Government is working with Barossa Infrastructure Limited (BIL) and Barossa Australia to investigate potential pathways for a viable recycled water project for Barossa. In addition to securing additional demand volumes, a new focus of the project will be considering the potential for existing users of River Murray water in Barossa to switch entirely to recycled water.
New governance arrangements between the State Government, BIL and Barossa Australia have been established to oversee the development of a recycled water project proposal. As the agency now leading the state’s engagement with the Australian Government’s National Water Grid Authority, the Department for Environment and Water is chairing the joint government-industry working group.
Given the increasing urgency around water supply in some parts of Barossa, particularly Eden Valley, a key early priority will be to explore short-term and no-regret solutions to address pressing water security issues.
Due to the central role of BIL and its members in any viable recycled water project, a key next step will be for BIL to engage with its members on the new focus and direction of the project.
Barossa Water Allocation Plan
Information about local drought projects