McLaren Vale vineyards expand with more recycled water

McClaren Vale vineyard
The McLaren Vale wine region is set to benefit from an expansion of the Willunga Basin irrigation Scheme.

One of Australia’s largest and most successful recycled water vineyard irrigation schemes is being expanded in South Australia.

The $7.3 million expansion includes the construction of a 600-megalitre dam south of Adelaide to store water from the Christies Beach Waste Water treatment plant before it is pumped out to more than 220 McLaren Vale irrigators.

The dam will enable new plantings and allow the pipeline network to be extended to reach more vineyards.

The McLaren Vale Community Sustainability Company will develop the project, $2.5 million of which has been funded under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

The project is expected to yield an additional $5.5 million in grape production for McLaren Vale annually, leading to an estimated $33 million yearly increase in wine production and creating more than 160 winery jobs.

The McLaren Vale Community Sustainability Company is a not-for-profit community group formed by the McLaren Vale Irrigators Council. It has partnered with the Willunga Basin Water Company, which is contributing $4.8 million to deliver the project.

The annual treated volume of the Christies Beach WWTP is around 10,000 ML. The new dam will allow WBWC to increase its intake to more than 6000ML a year, or about two thirds of the plant’s production with the balance of treated water discharged to Gulf St Vincent. About 6000ML a year is also drawn from groundwater each year to irrigate the region’s 7000 hectares of vineyards.

The Willunga Basin scheme has a 120km network of pipes delivering treated wastewater to more than 220 irrigators across more than 2000ha. The long-term goal is to develop more dams and pipe networks to ultimately take all of the Christies Beach wastewater to relieve pressure on the region’s dwindling groundwater supplies and reduce the amount of wastewater flushed out to sea.

Willunga Basin Water Company’s Craig Heidenreich said the project was a win-win for local growers and the environment.

“Recycled waste water no longer ends up in the ocean damaging marine life but helps ease the pressure on the local groundwater system,” he said.

“Irrigators across the region can continue to grow with the confidence that water resources across the region are more secure.

“This project further establishes McLaren Vale’s credentials as one of Australia’s most sustainable wine growing regions.”

Construction contracts are expected to be awarded by the end of October with the overall project due to be completed and on-line by June 2020.

The McLaren Vale region 40km south of Adelaide is home to more than 80 wineries.

Its dry climate, lack of humidity and proximity to suburban Adelaide has given it a sustainability edge, which it began developing in the 1990s when it became Australia’s first wine region to self-impose water restrictions on its underground resources.

The Willunga Basin Water Scheme was introduced in 1999 when the first recycled water pipeline connected McLaren Vale to recycled wastewater from Christies Beach, about 15km away.

Known for its premium Shiraz and Grenache, McLaren Vale is Australia’s fifth largest wine region by value, producing grapes with an estimated value of $58 million in 2019. It is home to several world-renowned brands including Hardys, Wirra Wirra and d’Arenberg.

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