December 6, 2023

Water Security Celebrated in McLaren Vale – 25 Years and 100GL

McLaren Vale is a globally recognised wine region and tourism destination, generating over $700 million per annum of economic activity. Since 1998, the success of the area has been underpinned by a drought proof supply of irrigation water from Willunga Basin Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of coNEXA.

Today, the scheme delivers up to 7 gigalitres (GL)/year of recycled water sourced from SA Water’s Aldinga and Christies Beach wastewater treatment plants to around 250 customers via storages, pump stations and 160 kilometres of pipe network.

In October 2023, coNEXA Willunga Basin Water will celebrate two major milestones – 25 years of operation and the delivery of over 100 GL of irrigation water, which is equivalent to 40,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

coNEXA CEO Kurt Dahl said the scheme represents best practice in circular economy thinking, whereby water and nutrients, that would have otherwise been discharged to the environment, are beneficially reused to support a wide range of social, business and environmental outcomes.

“I commend the vision and leadership shown by the founders of Willunga Basin Water. These schemes are always difficult to establish, requiring perseverance and long-term thinking,” Mr Dahl said.

“We are immensely proud of the continued growth of the business and its contribution to the McLaren Vale economy. Our operational staff live locally and maintain deep and direct connections with our customers.

“Finally, I must acknowledge our long-term partnership with SA Water – it is a collaborative, working relationship, which is always focussed on what’s best for the project.”

SA Water’s General Manager of Science and Strategy Nicola Murphy said in today’s changing climate, having a secure and sustainable water source is paramount, and the utility appreciates the value of achieving this outcome through collaborative partnerships.

“As the second largest recycler of water in Australia, we see every day the benefits a scheme like Willunga Basin Water can bring to the community, environment and local economy,” Ms Murphy said.

“We look forward to continuing our work together with coNEXA in shaping a resilient water future.”

Minister for Climate, Environment and Water, Susan Close said “Water is such a precious and finite resource, one that is vital to keeping our world class wine industry producing the quality and quantity of grapes they need to be productive.

coNEXA Willunga Basin Water continue to do a tremendous job in managing this resource in the southern vales, one of our nation’s premier wine regions, and I hope this continues for another 25 years and beyond.”

A thriving wine production region, and strong local businesses provide a solid foundation for a growing tourism industry. Minister for Tourism Zoe Betison said “There’s no doubt McLaren Vale is on the map, home to so many iconic and innovative wine tourism operators who attract visitors from Australia and around the World. Latest tourism data shows the region is absolutely booming, with visitor expenditure in the Fleurieu Peninsula at an all-time high of $834 million in the year to June.

Today’s milestones are important in helping ensure a sustainable and strong future for two of our state’s key economic drivers, wine and tourism.”

McLaren Vale Community Sustainability Company (MVCSC), a not for profit company focused on championing projects that will be beneficial to the McLaren Vale region, applauds coNEXA Willunga Basin Water on reaching these important milestones.

MVCSC Director Jock Harvey said the health, prosperity and future of the McLaren Vale region is underpinned by the wine industry, which all starts from growing grapes. Back in 1998 local grape growers identified that to enable the region to expand, additional irrigation water had to be sourced and with ground water at its limits, the Willunga Basin Water Company was subsequently formed and commenced the supply of recycled water to grape growers.

From these humble beginnings, 25 years on, recycled water now accounts for about half of McLaren Vale’s irrigation water; a fantastic milestone that has underpinned regions growth.

“The coNEXA Willunga Basin Water supply has been consistent and reliable over the last 25 years, which is a credit to the management of coNEXA and SA Water. Facing a changing climate and difficult trading conditions, it is reassuring that the McLaren Vale’s irrigation water supply is secure and in good hands,” Mr Harvey said.

Willunga Basin Water celebrated these two major water security milestones with our stakeholders at Chalk Hill Wines on the 13th October.