Northern Water Supply Project

The South Australian Government is undertaking a business case to consider a new and sustainable water supply for the far north and Upper Spencer Gulf areas of South Australia to support regional communities and industries now and into the future.

The business case will assess the environmental, social and economic benefits and impacts of the Northern Water Supply project. Stakeholder and community representative engagement is a fundamental part of identifying and understanding project opportunities and risks to be captured in the business case.

The business case will help inform the government’s decision to fund the Northern Water Supply project. A decision is expected by quarter two in 2023.

Ensuring a secure and sustainable water supply for the future

For our northern regional areas to thrive, we need a secure water supply. Taking more water from the River Murray or Great Artesian Basin is not an environmentally sustainable option. It is also increasingly uncertain in a changing climate.

The South Australian Government’s Northern Water Supply (NWS) project is assessing the viability of building a desalination plant and pipelines to meet the increasing demand for water by communities, agriculture and emerging green energy industries in the region. Discover the benefits.

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The business case will consider:

  • a seawater desalination plant (up to 260 Megalitres/day) in the Upper Spencer Gulf
  • a 450km water pipeline to the far north of South Australia
  • water storages and pumping stations
  • connections to identified customers
  • service connections such as access tracks, telecommunications, and power
  • temporary camps, offices and laydowns.

Initial analysis indicates that the plant could provide up to 260 Megalitres (0.26 Gigalitres) of water per day (or 94.9 Gigalitres per year). By comparison, South Australia uses just over 1,000 GL of water per year.

Potential locations are being considered. The final business case will be based on one location. The selection of the location for the business case will take into account critical factors, such as:

  • community and stakeholder engagement and feedback
  • environmental assessment outcomes
  • marine environment impacts
  • landholder engagement and feedback
  • Cultural Heritage and Native Title
  • engineering and technical feasibility assessments
  • commercial and economic impacts and opportunities.

The NWS Project began environmental studies in March 2022 as part of narrowing down a site for further detailed investigation.

The project will continue to work with environmental specialists and stakeholders to identify and minimise environmental risks, ensure appropriate management and mitigation is included, and enhance environmental opportunities.

A project of this nature requires at least 12 months of detailed environmental studies to gather adequate data for an impact assessment. These detailed assessments have recently commenced. If the business case is approved, environmental studies will continue under State and Commonwealth government requirements to monitor, assess and mitigate any risks.

Any decisions will be evidence-based and consider all environmental, social and economic impacts.

The University of Adelaide will provide an independent review of the marine and oceanographic components of the environmental assessment.

Further detail on the nature, scope and direction of the environmental assessment will be made available during stakeholder consultations.

As part of the business case and environmental studies we will:

  • invite key stakeholders to review the proposed plant location and pipeline route
  • work with stakeholders and community representatives to ensure that concerns and aspirations are understood and addressed
  • work with key stakeholders to identify and understand relevant knowledge gaps and solutions
  • make reports and studies available for public review
  • communicate how stakeholder and community input influenced the outcome.


  1. Business case including technical and feasibility studies
  2. Social, environmental and economic studies
  3. Project decision *
  4. Detailed social, environmental and economic assessment
  5. Detailed project planning and design
  6. Construction
  7. First water

* future steps are not committed at this time

Photo:top view of construction workers in planning session

Economic benefits

Jobs growth in the region

If approved, construction activity will be substantial. Growth in energy, mining, pastoral and other service and supply chain sectors will lead to more and diverse job opportunities in the region.

Accelerating Renewable Energy and Hydrogen

The Upper Spencer Gulf is already a global leader in renewable energy. It is now on the cusp of the next wave of economic prosperity – prosperity that will impact generations to come. A secure and scalable source of quality water will support the establishment of the hydrogen economy and a decarbonised global export industry that will transform not just the energy sector but the economic future of all South Australians.

Read about SA’s hydrogen action plan here

Existing sectors can grow

Secure access to water means industry, horticulture, pastoral, and agriculture activities can expand, diversifying and strengthening the economy in the region.

Photo:hydrogen storage tanks

Environmental benefits

Good for the River Murray and the Great Artesian Basin

A new and additional water supply allows us to use water from the River Murray as efficiently as possible. This project will support ecological outcomes for the Murray Darling system and Great Artesian Basin for the benefit of future generations.

Support for green hydrogen and green steel

The Upper Spencer Gulf is primed to become a world class, low-cost green hydrogen supplier.

The state government is investing more than half a billion dollars to accelerate new hydrogen projects and shipping infrastructure in the Upper Spencer Gulf region, further advancing its reputation as a global clean energy leader.

To secure South Australia’s first mover advantage, the state government is building a world leading green hydrogen power station, electrolyser and storage facility near Whyalla, in the state’s Upper Spencer Gulf.

The $593 million project will be operational by December 2025, placing South Australia firmly on the hydrogen map nationally.

Read more on South Australia’s Hydrogen Jobs Plan.

Support for the renewable sector worldwide

Copper is in high demand worldwide because it is a highly efficient electricity conductor and is used in renewable energy systems to generate power from solar, hydro, thermal and wind energy. South Australia is fortunate to have significant deposits of copper and other critical minerals essential for global decarbonisation and electrification. A secure water source is needed to unlock this potential.

Photo:kids jumping off jetty

Social benefits

New and more jobs

Economic growth leads to new jobs in mining, industry and agriculture and the services that support those sectors in the region and in South Australia.

Career options for young people

New industries will offer young people greater career choices. Pathways for further education will be expanded, and the community will have the opportunity to develop the new skills required to support emerging industries.

Improved liveability

Economic growth will support the development of new businesses, recreational opportunities, and social infrastructure that improves the liveability of the Upper Spencer Gulf communities. A vibrant Upper Spencer Gulf will attract residents and visitors to the region.

Have your say

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