The Darwin River Dam is at the lowest it has been in years. (Supplied: Power Water Corporation)
A looming water security crisis in the Top End has triggered fresh calls for a new dam to be built, despite no government having put its hand up to pay for construction.
- NT Senator Sam McMahon and rural politician Kezia Purick have both called for urgent action on the Top End’s water security
- Senator McMahon says the Federal Government won’t give a dollar figure on funding a new dam until a feasibility study is finished
- The NT Government says it has ‘decided to take the lead’ on developing water storage projects, but would look to working with private industry
However, the NT Government has given its closest indication that it is gearing up to take action on the issue, with a Department of Trade spokeswoman saying it had, “decided to lead the development of water storage solutions” for the region.
Residents of Darwin’s rural area have been facing critically low groundwater levels, forcing some to look at trucking water in for their homes.
NT Senator Sam McMahon told the ABC a new “off-river” catchment at the Adelaide River could help alleviate the issue and the project could “get off the ground in the next few years”.
The table shows the Berry Springs ground water failed to replenish during the last wet season. (Supplied: NT Government)
A CSIRO report, released in 2018, found an, “Adelaide River Dam could safeguard Darwin’s future water supply and support 8,500 hectares of irrigated agriculture”.
Ms McMahon, part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Coalition, said the long-touted project would be a “perfectly viable water solution” for the Top End.
Independent pushes for commitment
She also criticised the NT Government’s handling of the current rural water shortage.
“Water supply and water security are some absolute basic fundamentals, and that’s a function of the Government,” Senator McMahon said.
“There’s people out there in the rural areas, their bores are running dry, they’re being told not to use water, it’s not good enough.”
The Darwin River Dam is under increased pressure to meet the water needs of the region. (Matt Brann)
Rural independent politician Kezia Purick echoed Ms McMahon’s comments that the “Government has not done enough work” towards solving the region’s long-term water security issues.
“This Government — and the past one — is shy on seriously talking about future water supply that is, a new dam,” Ms Purick said.
“The commitment to a new [Adelaide River] dam by [Northern Territory Government] money and or federal money, or both, is needed now to supply into the future.”
The current Darwin River Dam loses metres of water to evaporation in the year’s hotter months.
Darwin is also the water wastage capital of Australia, losing about 43 billion litres of water annually to leaks and irrigation.
NT Minister for Natural Resources Eva Lawler defended the Government’s approach to the water shortage issue, blaming business and industry growth for the demand on water resources.
Project could cost hundreds of millions
No political tier has yet committed to funding the Adelaide River project, which could cost in the hundreds of millions to construct.
Damming the Adelaide River has been explored for years, but no plans have been decided upon. (Supplied)
A spokesman for Ms McMahon said the Morrison Government was currently funding a feasibility study into the project.
She said they would not commit to any dollar value towards construction until the study was completed.
The NT’s Essential Services Minister, Dale Wakefield, said through a spokeswoman: “[The] NT Government is currently progressing discussions with the Commonwealth to secure funding to assess broader water supply options for the Darwin region to support economic development.”
Private company recently released water storage plan
A spokeswoman for the NT Trade Department said it was, “working with other government agencies and Power and Water to plan for future developments in the Darwin and rural area”.
The comments come just months after private company NT Water Pty Ltd told ABC Country Hour of its plan to create an off-stream water storage on the Adelaide River capable of holding 310,000 megalitres.
Other funding options could also be accessed for a new dam project, Senator McMahon said, including the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) among others.