WaterSmart Farms – Researching on-farm desalination in Western Australia

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The WaterSmart Farms project will support adoption of on-farm desalinisation plants in agricultural regions, to process brackish groundwater into a suitable resource for livestock, crop agronomy and other agribusiness activities.

The project will investigate optimal on-farm desalinisation technology and its application in the Grainbelt and Great Southern regions of Western Australia. WaterSmart Farms will also assess the technology, economics and systems, suitable groundwater resources and options for the disposal of reverse osmosis (RO) reject water.

The project

WaterSmart Farms is a $1.5m, 3-year project to research sustainable groundwater supply options using on-farm desalinisation technology. Successful use of this technology using brackish groundwater will increase the ability of farms to weather dry seasons.

The project has three components:

  • Understanding adoption of existing desalinisation plants that process brackish groundwater into a suitable resource for livestock, crop agronomy and other agribusiness activities ($200 000).
  • Optimise desalinisation technology and its application in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions, including assessing the technology, economics and options for the disposal of RO reject water ($600 000).
  • Undertake a targeted groundwater exploration program and where suitable, locate desalinisation trials ($700 000)

The project was initiated in response to growing industry requests to develop more climate resilient on-farm water supply options.  The urgency for this work was highlighted by the number of water deficiency declarations over the last 3 years and a record 12 water deficiency declarations in 2020.

Dry conditions over the last 3 years meant that on-farm dams and more traditional water supplies were not meeting needs, resulting in an unsustainable demand on scheme water, and more than $3.3 million spent on carting emergency water supplies for livestock.

The WaterSmart Farms project builds on work over the past 3 years by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Water Corporation, Murdoch University and the Wheatbelt Development Commission to assess on-farm desalinisation infrastructure and the implications to businesses, regional economies and the environment. 

The project involves relevant agencies, local government, farmers, grower groups and technology providers.

Contact information

Richard George
+61 (0)8 9780 6296

WaterSmart Farms – Researching on-farm desalination in Western Australia