Port Lincoln and the broader Eyre Peninsula in South Australia are facing a critical water shortage.

Officials warn that the region's drinkable water supply could be depleted within two years, with over-extraction from an underground aquifer having put 28,000 water users at risk.

SA Water Minister Nick Champion stressed the urgency of the situation during an interview with the ABC.

“We’re running out of time, and we need to act. The aquifers are running salty.”

The proposed solution is the construction of a desalination plant, but the location has sparked controversy among residents and industry stakeholders. 

Billy Lights Point has been identified as the most cost-effective site, but concerns have been raised by local businesses, particularly the aquaculture industry.

Champion says the state is aware of the concerns and has made adjustments to the plan, with intake pipes to be placed in deeper water to mitigate any potential impact on seafood stocks. 

Despite the modifications, the debate over the plant’s location continues. 

The estimated $313 million cost for Billy Lights Point makes it the cheapest option, compared to an alternative site that would cost at least $500 million due to logistical challenges.

The water shortage also poses significant challenges for onshore agriculture. 

Farmers that rely on water from the depleted aquifer say the issue is seriously impacting their ability to raise livestock, given that the region’s rainfall patterns do not support dam construction.

A state parliamentary committee visited Port Lincoln to assess the situation, and was confronted with residents that oppose the proposed location for the desalination plant. 

Champion acknowledged the frustrations, admitting that time had been wasted due to “wishful thinking” in both the bureaucratic and community spheres. 

Despite the controversy, he remains firm that immediate action is necessary to prevent a catastrophic water shortage.