NT Government says fracking could fuel Top End water infrastructure expansion
The fracking industry could one day be pivotal in water infrastructure expansion in the Northern Territory, with the NT Government saying it has a “keen eye” on future developments.
- The NT Government sees onshore gas and mining industries as possible ways to expand water infrastructure
- Cash-strapped Government departments will try to balance demand for water and growing the NT with environmental responsibility
- Curious Darwin readers have called for more political vision to help expand Australia’s Top End water infrastructure
Acting NT Natural Resources Minister Lauren Moss said future private investment “in initiatives that capture, store and transport water resources would be welcomed” by the NT Government.
“Industries such as those involved in onshore gas and mining are always looking at water use as a driver of innovation, and this is something we have a keen eye on,” Ms Moss said.
The Minister’s comments follow a Curious Darwin investigation earlier in December that asked: Why can’t the Top End pipe some of its abundant water south to assist drought-stricken states?
More than 2,300 of you wanted to know the answer which was, in short, that such a project would be too expensive for any government to ever fully fund.
Although nearly two metres of rain falls each year in Darwin, the region currently does not have the infrastructure in place to capture enough of it to be piped out — a project which experts from CSIRO and Power and Water Corporation have estimated would cost billions, if not trillions, of taxpayer dollars.
Cash-strapped Labor’s balancing act
With the NT Government’s bank balance dwindling, thanks to an ongoing debt crisis, the chance for publicly funded water infrastructure expansions in the near future look slim, particularly if they were to benefit regions outside the NT.
Ms Moss said the NT Government was focused on the NT “first and foremost” for future water projects, which she said could include the return to service of Manton River Reservoir, and the Adelaide River Offstream Water Storage to augment supply to Darwin.
“To ensure that we do not limit the Territory’s ability to grow its regional economy and population, water management is focused on the needs of Territorians,” Ms Moss said.
“This includes balancing demand for water with supply capacity over time, planning for potential future water security and sources to support the growth of the Territory, and ensuring water use does not adversely impact the environment.”
This balancing act was expected to be in full swing when fracking starts in the Territory from the new year.
Matt Doman from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) told the ABC in November that the industry had calculated a “large-scale onshore gas industry” in the NT would use up to 8 gigalitres of water each year, “which is not a significant water use compared to other industries”.
Changes to the NT’s Water Act, which passed through Parliament last month, aimed to increase regulation and ensure mining and petroleum companies were, for the first time, required to have water licences and permits to access water resources.
Curious Darwin readers call for bigger vision
Despite the public costs involved with expanding the Top End’s water infrastructure resources, the ABC was flooded with comments from around the nation calling for bigger political vision to find a way forward.
“A politician’s vision generally only extends to using public funds for those people who are alive while the politician is in office,” said Allan McEwen from NSW.
“Benefits for great and great-great grandchildren are not deemed politically expedient.
“If we can green inland Australia then we can create new towns and structures to sustain a much larger population.”
Darwin River Dam, which services the greater Darwin region. (Supplied: Power Water Corporation)
Reader Stephen Rice said he believed a “portable extruding machine” to make pipes on location would reduce “transport costs and cut out a lot of cost in welding pipes together”.
“I believe all options should be considered and one acted on,” Mr Rice said.
Dave from Western Australia talked of how pioneering Kimberley MP Ernie Bridge had once proposed building a water pipeline from Lake Argyle to Perth in conjunction with the construction of the gas pipeline from the North West shelf.
“As you would already have the people, plant and equipment already on site, it would have been cheaper than a standalone project to build another pipeline,” he said.
Reader Isabella Moore said she believed Mr Bridge’s ambitions for the East Kimberley had been hit by hurdles from “know all, know nothing government staffers in Canberra”.
“Of course, [water infrastructure expansion] is needed, but who will stick their neck out for such a huge project?” she asked.
While you’re here… are you feeling curious?