Although almost 100 percent of residents in Quorn say they choose not to drink the town's mains water due to its poor quality, a ground water desalination plant has not been listed by SA Water in its 2024-28 regulatory proposal.
The water has high chlorine, chloride and salt quantities and an SA Water survey of the town's 1230 residents found 97pc of the town did not drink the mains water.
Flinders Ranges Council mayor Ken Anderson claims the water destroys plants and gardens, is unpalatable for pets and makes some residents break out in rashes in addition to being undrinkable for humans.
Mr Anderson said SA Water gave water in Quorn a 0pc compliance rating for chloride, sodium and hardness in 2020.
"Undrinkable tap water has placed a significant financial, environmental and health toll on the Quorn community," Mr Anderson said.
"Residents have to buy expensive bottled water amid a cost-of-living crunch - a task made more difficult for those with limited mobility and means to travel to and from the town's only supermarket with a heavy load of groceries.
"It affects this wonderful town's reputation and is damaging for a region that is trying to attract new residents and businesses.
"Put simply, our residents deserve better."
Without palatable drinking water, residents are either resorting to buying bottled water - which has a lasting impact on the environment, according to Mr Anderson - or purchasing rainwater tanks and with the town's annual rainfall at about 250 millimetres and a drought likely to take hold in the near future, Mr Anderson said the residents were left high and dry.
Following extensive engagement, combined with a technical, social, and economic multi-criteria analysis, Quorn was identified as a priority township by SA Water, but the desalination plant will likely not go ahead in the next four years.
An SA Water spokesperson said it acknowledged the ongoing aesthetic challenges with Quorn's water supply - which has naturally-occurring salinity - and while it remained safe to drink, it understood the water could be unpleasant to taste and impact household appliances.
"As part of our recent detailed investigations assessing scope and costings to improve water aesthetics for the town, it was determined a project would not be prioritised in our 2024-28 regulatory period, as it would require a cost per beneficiary of around $42,000," they said.
"This estimate is based on constructing a new groundwater desalination plant - supplied from existing bores in Quorn - at a total investment of $50.9 million.
"We understand this may not be the outcome desired by the local community, however, we cannot currently support expenditure for this aesthetic water upgrade to one community in lieu of other projects supporting the delivery of our essential water and sewer services across the state."
Last week, Quorn community members took their pleas to the steps of SA Water in Adelaide as part of the council's "Undrinkable. Unthinkable." campaign.
"We set up at the front of SA Water with water and damaged appliances to demonstrate what the water does to our homes," Mr Anderson.
"People were pretty horrified with what they saw and we got quite a bit of interest through that.
"We then sat down with the CEO of SA Water and the message was the same - they don't see it as economically viable and they're providing a product that won't kill us - but it's not palatable.
"The thought is that it's our choice whether we drink it or not, but that's just not good enough."
Mr Anderson said the town would continue with its current campaign, with hope state member Eddie Hughes and federal member Rowan Ramsey would bring the fight to their respective governments in the coming weeks.
"The second round of consultation happens in January and that's when the plan will be set.
"This is the only opportunity we have now for another four years to say 'hey, hold on, this is not fair'.
"It doesn't happen very often that they change their mind but we're not going to sit here and wait because we deserve better."
The Local Government Association joined Flinders Ranges Council in calling on SA Water, the Essential Services Commission of South Australia and the state government to take immediate steps to rectify the town's water quality.
LGA chief executive officer Clinton Jury said he was shocked to learn about the ongoing water crisis affecting the Quorn township during a recent visit to the area.
"It's staggering and completely unacceptable that an award-winning South Australian town less than four hours' drive from Adelaide doesn't have access to clean drinking water," he said.
"Not only does it make living in Quorn harder for locals, but it also impacts the viability of businesses and hinders tourism.
"Flinders Ranges Council has raised concerns about this issue for years and, so far, those concerns have been ignored. We continually see water quality improvements made across metropolitan Adelaide while this regional town and gateway to the outback is being left behind.
"Access to drinking water is a basic human right and the LGA is requesting urgent, immediate action to rectify this serious failure against the Quorn community."
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