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Tuesday, 26 March 1968


Mr FAIRBAIRN - A decision has not yet been made about whether the next major storage on the River Murray should be at Chowilla or at some alternative site further upstream. The River Murray Commission will meet again on 24th April. We hope by then to have available sufficient information to enable a recommendation to be made. However, the final decision about where work will proceed must be made by the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the three States concerned. Investigation work undertaken by the Technical Committee of the River Murray Commission has thrown some doubt on the immediate development of the Chowilla Dam, for a number of reasons.

The first is that the likely cost has escalated enormously from an original estimate of $28m to a final cost, at the calling of tenders, of $70m. Although the project appeared to be a good prospect at an estimated cost of $28m, we had to look at the figure of $70m to see whether it would not be possible to obtain cheaper water for South Australia by some other means. The results of discussions in the Technical Committee so far tend to show that the decision to suspend work at Chowilla was correct, because a number of other sites which are appearing would be more suitable and would allow water to be provided at a very much lower cost per acre foot. Let me just give the honourable member several figures relating to this aspect. It has been estimated that an additional acre foot of water provided at Chowilla would cost $242, compared with $53 to $55 an acre foot at Dartmouth, on the Mitta River, and Murray Gates, where sites for upper river storage are being looked at.

There is also the additional problem of salinity. In the Chowilla area, salinity has increased enormously. An interim report that we have received from technical consultants shows that there would be a likelihood of a slight buildup of salinity if a dam were constructed at Chowilla. As I have said, there are a number of other technical reasons for the suspension of work there. Basically, the situation is that the River Murray Commission, at its next meeting, will make whatever recommendation it believes is correct. It will then be for the four governments concerned to get together and decide where a major storage should be provided.







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