Harry Butler Institute

Drawing regional water supplies from the sun

Western Australia’s economic and regional development is dependent on secure and sustainable water supplies.

As the cost of treating and delivering water to regional areas rises, Murdoch researchers are looking to solar-powered desalination plants as a sustainable solution.


Areas of research

Solar Desalination, Water Security, Agriculture

Technology utilised

Solar Desalination Plants

Lead researchers

Professor Wendell Ela


What was the need for this project?

The Wheatbelt Region of Western Australia is supplied by the Goldfield and Agricultural Water Supply Scheme through a vast distribution network of over 9000km of pipework. The network services more than 100,000 customers, farms, mines and other enterprises, with the main conduit one of the longest freshwater pipelines in the world.

However, the cost efficiency of supplying Perth water to these small, widely dispersed users is continuing to decrease due to rising maintenance associated with the ageing infrastructure and the need to increase Perth supply by treating impaired water sources.


How the project was completed

Professor Ela’s team has undertaken a broad research program with the Water Corporation and Wheatbelt Development Commission to diversify regional water sources, identify attractive self-supply options for farmers and small regional communities, and encourage the best use of local water supply resources.

The desalination systems they have developed in response are entirely driven by solar energy and specifically designed to require minimum maintenance as they deliver livestock drinking water and specialty crop irrigation water.


Results and achievements for this project

The solar desalination systems delivered by the project are allowing regional properties to achieve greater self-sufficiency in their water supply.

Research is ongoing to better understand the costs, equipment, longevity, robustness and limitations across the range of conditions prevalent in the Wheatbelt Region to optimise these systems for long term operation.


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