ADELAIDE, AAP – The development of a sustainable water supply for South Australia’s north, to help support economic growth, will be examined through a $15 million commitment from the state and federal governments.

The money will be used to develop a business case for the Northern Water Supply project which could include construction of a desalination plant in the upper Spencer Gulf to reduce reliance on the Great Artesian Basin and the River Murray.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said delivering a secure and sustainable water source would drive the growth of regional communities and industries.

“A safe, reliable and sustainable water source will improve water security, create jobs and help unlock the economic potential of new and expanded opportunities for businesses in the state’s north,” Mr Joyce said.

To support the business case, the SA Government has entered into an agreement with SA Water, BHP and Oz Minerals to address the region’s water needs.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said it was important for the government to play a coordinating role to bring together a range of potential customers to make the project possible.

“This project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure a brighter future for South Australia and create jobs in an environmentally sustainable way,” Mr Marshall said.

“We are always looking for ways to ensure we are using water efficiently because ongoing and secure access to water is integral to economic growth.”

BHP Asset President Jennifer Purdie said BHP said the project had the potential to support industry and agriculture in rural and regional South Australia, by improving water stewardship and creating opportunities for future investment and jobs.

“This is a positive step forward in BHP’s commitment to make our Olympic Dam operations more sustainable,” she said.

“South Australia has an important role to play in producing the high-quality copper the world needs to grow and decarbonise, and these types of projects can help us deliver more sustainably now and into the future.”

OZ Minerals Chief Executive Andrew Cole said the company was keen to play a part in collectively exploring a sustainable way forward.

“Water is an essential consumable for our operations and a critical resource for our stakeholders, particularly for the communities in which we operate, so we recognise the need to responsibly consume this water,” he said.

“One of our aspirations as a modern mining company is to strive to minimise water use and add value when we do.”

SA Water Chief Executive David Ryan in the face of a changing climate it was critical to be thinking ahead to ensure fit for purpose water was secured for the long term.