A mobile desalination plant has been set up in the town of Brewarrina, in north-west New South Wales, to deliver palatable water to residents, informs Water Source, the online news of the Australian Water Association. The town relies for its water supply on the Barwon River, which is drying up, with very low inflows over the last 6 years.
The river’s water undergoes treatment at a local plant, but the process cannot eliminate the sodium content in the water, which is high due to low inflows into the river system. Although unpleasantly salty, the water is safe to drink and complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and the State’s Health Requirements, according to the local Council. Water sampling and testing continues as per the Council’s Water Quality Management Plan.
The portable plant uses reverse osmosis to treat up to 70,000 litres per day of brackish water. It is not connected to the town’s water supply, but rather it is next to the town’s Visitor Centre, where residents can fill up water containers to take home 24/7 at no cost.
Photo: Brewarrina Shire Council
The Barwon River is suffering from the protracted drought that affects NSW. In July 2019, a report by the NSW’s Natural Resources Commission warned that the Barrow-Darling river system was an ‘ecosystem in crisis’ as a result of the intense drought, but also poor management, leading to extreme stress for the communities that live along the river.
The Berejiklian government is going to spend $10 million on similar desalination systems in the towns of Bourke and Walgett, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, in those cases connected to the water supply so that residents will be able to access the water from their tap. Both communities resort to bore water when their surface water supply is scarce, and testing results show the sodium content is higher than the aesthetic quality value in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.