Program: Peel Integrated Water Initiative

Supporting the Peel region’s growth and economic development.
Last updated: 21 April 2023

The Peel Integrated Water Initiative (PIWI) is delivering technical information that supports climate-independent, sustainable and secure water use for the Transform Peel program, and environmental benefits for generations.

Water availability is critical for effective regional development. It underpins options for economic growth and determines the viability of capital investments. 

The PIWI project team implemented an extensive technical program which assessed the water opportunities and constraints related to the economic development objectives of the Transform Peel program.

The technical program focused on delivering two main objectives, centred on water quantity and quality:

  • Water quantity: Identify a range of technically viable water source and storage options to support the expected growth in demand from the Peel Food Zone and Peel Business Park, and maintain the region’s water balance.
  • Water quality: Develop strategies to protect the region’s fragile ecosystem by minimising land-use impacts on the environment and reducing agricultural nutrient runoff into the Peel-Harvey estuary by 50 per cent.

While water demand may be met through conventional sources in the short term, innovative supply options are needed to provide water security for the Transform Peel program, and enable food production for domestic and high-value international markets for the next 50 years and beyond.

Technical studies

The PIWI project team undertook extensive technical analysis to model and better understand the Peel water system. Studies included:

  • Managed aquifer recharge feasibility study: Investigated the possibility of storing water collected over the wet winter months by pumping it into the deep natural aquifer system for future demand.   
  • Groundwater environmental tracer analysis: Used to improve existing hydrogeological knowledge of the area and extend the conceptual modelling of deeper aquifers. 
  • Airborne electromagnetic and seismic surveys: Measured changes in below-ground conductivity (an indicator of groundwater salinity) to provide a better understanding of the regional groundwater system before validating findings through drilling and pump testing.
  • Ecological water requirements assessment: Defined the quantity of water needed to preserve groundwater dependent ecosystems. This process will inform allocation of groundwater resources in the PIWI investigation area and support the water licensing policy.
  • Historical climate and climate change analysis: Identified the potential impact of recent and future climate change on water resources within the PIWI investigation area, including declining rainfall and fluctuating weather patterns.
  • Water supply-demand analysis: Provided an understanding of how more intensive land uses would increase future demand for water.
  • Hydrological and nutrient modelling: Modelled under current and future climate projections to identify potential surface water extraction volumes, including associated nutrient loads within the PIWI project area. 
  • Soil amendment and testing: Investigated how current interventions and new strategies could improve water quality in the Peel Food Zone and reduce nutrient loads into the Peel-Harvey estuarine system.

Findings of the technical program

To summarise the results of the technical program and evaluate water opportunities and constraints for the Transform Peel project, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation in collaboration with industry partners produced the Transform Peel: Peel Integrated Water Initiative report

Major findings of the report include:

  • Water is a diminishing resource due to the impact of climate change and rainfall variability. While short-term water demand may be met through groundwater and surface water sources, future demand will need to come from applying technology, using water more efficiently and trading licensed water entitlements.
  • Alternative water supply options and innovation will be required for significant expansion or growth. The report evaluated alternative water supply options for future use including managed aquifer recharge, drainage water harvesting and treated wastewater.
  • Current and future land uses can reduce and prevent excess nutrients entering the Peel-Harvey estuary by using environmentally friendly fertilisers, soil amendments and closed-loop production systems.
  • More research and land planning, focused on establishing a greenhouse precinct and investigating other agricultural development opportunities, is required, to inform future fit-for-purpose water supply options.
  • The detailed knowledge of water resources captured by the project will enable better informed decision-making by government, industry and the community. 

The PIWI report is available for download.