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Water for the economy

Sustainable water management is a cornerstone of a thriving state economy where industry, people and the environment have access to reliable water supplies.

Among South Australia’s sectors identified for growth are food, wine and agribusiness, as well as energy and mining.

The state is balancing existing needs and planning ahead to enable the state to reach its economic potential. This means the state is providing the right conditions for industry to leverage its strengths to achieve the highest economic returns from available water resources. We are creating the right conditions to unlock opportunities for innovation, ensuring water-dependent industries remain internationally competitive, while maintaining supplies for the environment. 

The state manages around $2.8 billion of water across 13,750 active and tradeable licences. These licences responsibly provide access to water for irrigated agriculture, manufacturing, energy, mining and petroleum, and meet the needs of livestock industries and domestic water requirements. 

Water for agriculture and food production

Primary production is the largest user of water across South Australia and our carefully managed water resources support thousands of small to medium-size businesses.

Water supports horticulture, agriculture, viticulture, dairy and livestock. Food and wine industries are major contributors to South Australia’s economy and have significant growth potential as world demand grows.

South Australia is already a leader in efficient irrigation practices. Our agricultural and water supply industries and communities are skilled at extracting the very best value from our limited water resources. 

Water security is essential to ensuring agriculture and food production can share available water and there is investment to open up new supplies where identified and available, and also to support industry development and adaptation.

Water for energy and mining

South Australia has significant deposits of copper, gold, iron ore, uranium, graphite and petroleum.

Energy and mining rely on water for camp amenities, mine site operations, industrial applications such as dust suppression, vehicle and machinery maintenance, drilling and hydraulic fracturing, separating ore and cooling.

Water is also used in de-watering processes, extracted as a byproduct of oil and gas production, and potentially extracted from pit lakes when mining operations cease.

South Australia has a robust regulatory framework to guide sustainable water management. For the energy and mining industries this provides certainty for future investment, attracts jobs, and demonstrates that energy and mining can be part of a sustainable future. 

Water is provided under water resource management arrangements and within sustainable limits where water is ‘prescribed’, or via SA Water. Other sources like on-site reuse, saline groundwater and recycled water open up access to supplementary water sources for industry to help drive growth.

While demand for water continues to rise, South Australia remains committed to proactively managing needs, diversifying sources and planning for the future to head off potential demand pressures that growth in energy and mining can bring.

In South Australia, the environmental impacts must be managed and meet the expectations of relevant regulators and the community. This way, sustainable water resources can support energy and mineral development as well as households, stock, irrigation, manufacturing, Aboriginal culture and heritage, recreation, and the environment. 

As competition for water increases across the state, particularly in the context of a changing climate, water and its availability will become increasingly important for the growth of the resources industries.

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