Work is progressing on a potential new water source for the Barossa region, with "strong support" from local businesses suggesting it will have the demand necessary for the planned 2024 start of construction.
KBR's Barossa New Water project manager Phil Staniforth said the water solutions team had spent the first few months of 2022 assessing the commitment from the private sector, at what price point, with more than 200 signed letters of intent already in place.
"That's an indication of strong support, showing the interest and need for water in the Barossa and Eden Valley," he said.
Based on community consultation, the KBR team has designed a plan for an 11 gigalitre project, with 7GL for the Barossa and 4GL for Eden Valley, with options including sourcing all the water as recycled water from the Bolivar treatment site, while another option would source the 4GL for Eden Valley from the River Murray.
"Option one is most climate resilient option, it's not reliant on the Murray," Mr Staniforth said.
The project would involve supplying water across a 150-day period, with water treated to bring it from the 1100 to 1200 parts per million salinity levels at Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant to 300-400ppm.
It would also involve either extending a pipe 45 kilometres from the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme, or building a 50km new pipe direct from the Bolivar to Barossa.
Mr Staniforth said the total project would likely be about $400 million to $500m but they were hoping to raise the first $100m from community buy in, while the ongoing operating costs would be covered by annual charges, expected to be about $1700-$1800 per megalitre, depending on location.
He said there were forecasts this investment could unlock a potential $1 billion in economic benefits, including 1400 full time equivalent jobs in the region.
He said the majority of the water use would be for existing irrigation (60 per cent) but some would also allow for new vine plantings as well as other uses, such as stock and domestic.
Mr Staniforth said there was also potential branding benefits in the "sustainable" credentials the project could bring.
Barossa Infrastructure Limited director Vic Patrick said such a project was needed in the area, with stock number down 30pc in the past two decades, and vine yields back some 25pc, because of the lack of water security.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said there was a lot of potential in the project, particularly given it was "community driven, rather than bureaucrat driven".
"This is the only way we're going to grow ag, with the constraints of the southern Murray-Darling Basin," he said.
"There is $3.5 billion set aside for building water infrastructure and this is the type of project we want to see."
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