Kangaroo Island's new seawater desalination plant

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The Australian and South Australian Governments committed $47.8 million to build a new desalination plant on Kangaroo Island to provide an additional climate independent drinking water supply, boost economic activity, and improve bushfire resilience.

Water produced from the new plant will supplement the existing Penneshaw facility and the Middle River Reservoir, supplying the Island through a connected drinking water network.

A new pipeline will have capacity to service residents in Baudin Beach, Island Beach, Sapphiretown and American River. Our engagement with these communities will explore opportunities and interest in connecting to this new drinking water supply with consultation informing where any new drinking water networks are laid.

The new desalination plant will produce as much as 80% of the Island’s current water requirements. This will allow for growth and an expected increase in demand.

Our experience with desalination plants

We operate nine desalination plants across South Australia including seawater desalination plants at Lonsdale in Adelaide and the existing plant at Penneshaw.

Our desalination plants improve security of drinking water supplies for our customers. They give us the ability to supply water regardless of climate impacts and ensure drinking water is still available even in times of drought.

How desalination plants work

Our desalination plants use a technology called reverse osmosis. The process removes up to 99 per cent of the impurities and salt in the water. Once the impurities - mainly salt - are removed, the water is treated to ensure it is safe to drink.

Current status

Work continues to seek all environmental and planning, approvals and design development of the pipeline and the desalination plant are progressing.

The pipeline connecting the existing Penneshaw facility and the Middle River-Kingscote network will be constructed along Hog Bay Road and Arronmore Road.

The new desalination facility will be built in the vicinity of the existing plant at Penneshaw. Work is being undertaken to identify a preferred location and details regarding this will be shared as soon as possible.

Drop-in sessions

Over the duration of the project, we will facilitate a number of discussions that will provide you with project updates, information regarding connection opportunities for the communities of American River, Baudin Beach, Sapphiretown and Island Beach as well as providing information regarding connections along the pipeline connecting the existing Penneshaw facility and the Middle River-Kingscote network.

Next steps

Construction is likely to be undertaken in stages. The first stage will see the construction of approximately 50 kilometres of pipeline connecting Penneshaw with the existing Middle-River-Kingscote network with works anticipated to start in mid-2021.

The second stage will see construction of the desalination plant and associated marine works in early 2022 with reticulation mains for the communities of American River, Baudin Beach, Island Beach and Sapphiretown constructed in mid-2022.

With our target of first water for the end of 2022, this includes providing water to new connections in these four communities.

Landowners and local communities along the pipeline route will be invited to discuss connections to this new supply of drinking water. We will engage with these communities on opportunities to connect to this new, safe, clean affordable drinking water network.


The Australian and South Australian Governments committed $47.8 million to build a new desalination plant on Kangaroo Island to provide an additional climate independent drinking water supply, boost economic activity, and improve bushfire resilience.

Water produced from the new plant will supplement the existing Penneshaw facility and the Middle River Reservoir, supplying the Island through a connected drinking water network.

A new pipeline will have capacity to service residents in Baudin Beach, Island Beach, Sapphiretown and American River. Our engagement with these communities will explore opportunities and interest in connecting to this new drinking water supply with consultation informing where any new drinking water networks are laid.

The new desalination plant will produce as much as 80% of the Island’s current water requirements. This will allow for growth and an expected increase in demand.

Our experience with desalination plants

We operate nine desalination plants across South Australia including seawater desalination plants at Lonsdale in Adelaide and the existing plant at Penneshaw.

Our desalination plants improve security of drinking water supplies for our customers. They give us the ability to supply water regardless of climate impacts and ensure drinking water is still available even in times of drought.

How desalination plants work

Our desalination plants use a technology called reverse osmosis. The process removes up to 99 per cent of the impurities and salt in the water. Once the impurities - mainly salt - are removed, the water is treated to ensure it is safe to drink.

Current status

Work continues to seek all environmental and planning, approvals and design development of the pipeline and the desalination plant are progressing.

The pipeline connecting the existing Penneshaw facility and the Middle River-Kingscote network will be constructed along Hog Bay Road and Arronmore Road.

The new desalination facility will be built in the vicinity of the existing plant at Penneshaw. Work is being undertaken to identify a preferred location and details regarding this will be shared as soon as possible.

Drop-in sessions

Over the duration of the project, we will facilitate a number of discussions that will provide you with project updates, information regarding connection opportunities for the communities of American River, Baudin Beach, Sapphiretown and Island Beach as well as providing information regarding connections along the pipeline connecting the existing Penneshaw facility and the Middle River-Kingscote network.

Next steps

Construction is likely to be undertaken in stages. The first stage will see the construction of approximately 50 kilometres of pipeline connecting Penneshaw with the existing Middle-River-Kingscote network with works anticipated to start in mid-2021.

The second stage will see construction of the desalination plant and associated marine works in early 2022 with reticulation mains for the communities of American River, Baudin Beach, Island Beach and Sapphiretown constructed in mid-2022.

With our target of first water for the end of 2022, this includes providing water to new connections in these four communities.

Landowners and local communities along the pipeline route will be invited to discuss connections to this new supply of drinking water. We will engage with these communities on opportunities to connect to this new, safe, clean affordable drinking water network.


  • Connecting new customers

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    Opportunities to connect to the proposed new water mains network in American River, Baudin Beach, Island Beach and Sapphiretown is a critical part of this project.

    A reduced connection fee for new customers in these four communities who opt in before connection works begin will be available. This reduction can be achieved by undertaking connections to properties at the same time as laying the mains in your community.

    A fact sheet that outlines details including the cost to connect and our statewide water pricing and an Intent to Connect document. The fact sheet can be found in the Documents section of this page.

  • How to get involved

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    There are a number of ways you can get involved.

    You can find answers to frequently asked questions here. This will be updated throughout the project. If your question is not answered, you can ask us here.

    You can also talk with us about the project by calling Aaron Glossop on 7424 3195 or email aaron.glossop@sawater.com.au.

    To be kept informed as the project progresses, please subscribe to our email list on the right hand side of this page.

  • Background

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    In 2018, we released the Kangaroo Island long-term water security plan (the Plan).

    The Plan was developed in consultation with key stakeholders, including local government, industry, environment, and community groups, and outlined a framework that will ensure we meet increases in water demand for Kangaroo Island for the next 25 years.

    Opportunities and challenges identified in the Plan are balanced across a range of factors, both now and into the future with the aim to ensure a safe, secure and reliable water supply for current and future customers while keeping prices as low and stable as possible.

    A number of options to ensure water security were considered during the development of the Plan with an additional desalination plant identified as the preferred option.

    While the existing Middle River and Penneshaw water supply networks have adequate capacity to meet current needs and sustain organic growth until about 2036, warm and dry conditions, along with the recent bushfires, has seen an increase in demand placing stress on the Middle River Reservoir.

    In response, we are now accelerating the recommendation of the Plan to construct a new desalination plant at Penneshaw along with a new pipeline and associated infrastructure that will connect to the existing Middle River-Kingscote water supply network.