The Northern Adelaide Plains (NAP) is one of South Australia’s premier food producing regions. Fresh produce grown in the area is worth over $250 million per annum to the State’s economy, with crops such as tomatoes and capsicums from protected cropping (glasshouse) facilities and potatoes and carrots from field horticulture supplying demand in domestic markets. While local demand is expected to rise incrementally, world demand for food is forecast to rise by 70% by 2050. Of most interest to Australia is the rising demand for high quality food products from the middle class in the Asia Pacific, which is set to increase to 2.5 billion people by 2030.
In the short term, growth in the NAP food production economy is expected in horticulture, which already has the largest area under protected cropping in Australia. However, in the longer-term, intensive agriculture may develop as far north as Port Wakefield across to the base of the Mount Lofty Ranges (MLR) including the western Barossa; with growth in intensive pork, poultry, beef and lamb expected.
Continued growth of agriculture in the region will require access to additional land, energy and water. Water has traditionally been sourced from aquifers in the NAP Prescribed Wells Area (PWA) and recycled water from the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) distributed via the Virginia Pipeline Scheme (VPS). Increased access to water at the right price and quality is essential if food production in the region is to expand. However, increased water use must not repeat past problems, which has led to over extraction and waterlogging in some areas.
The South Australian Government engaged the Goyder Institute for Water Research to undertake the NAP Water Stocktake Project, a project to establish the current and potential water available in the NAP region for supporting future agricultural expansion. The primary study region covers the area from the Gawler River south down through primarily the Light Regional Council, City of Playford and City of Salisbury local government areas. The greater study region extends in an arc from Port Wakefield through the Barossa Valley back to the eastern edge of the City of Playford.
The objectives of the project were to:
This project brought together existing information and knowledge regarding the existing and potential water resources of the NAP prescribed wells area. This study should be viewed as the first step in bringing together existing information and new research.
It is expected that approximately 26 GL of additional water could be made available for economic development in the region in the short-term, with water quality suitable for most forms of agriculture. This consists of:
The results of sustainable yields modelling suggest that there could be some increase in groundwater extraction by current licensees (or by transfer of allocation from current licensees), although any such increases would only be possible in the zones beyond the major better water quality extraction zones. Potentially between 2 to 4 GL could be available in these zones for increased extraction, although this is subject to the finalisation of the Adelaide Plains Water Allocation Plan and subsequent decisions by the Minister.