Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Desalination system to address water shortage

In response to water scarcity and drought conditions on Norfolk Island, the Australian Government is working with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to provide a short-term alternative water source for the community in coming days.

An Army water purification and desalination system, capable of producing 100,000L of drinking water per day from sea water, will arrive on the island tomorrow (Friday, 7 February), as soon as the ADF can arrange its transport.

This approach aligns with the announcement in December 2019 by Assistant Minister Nola Marino that the Government would make portable desalination equipment available as a short term solution for water shortages over this summer, while work to establish a longer term solution to water security continues.

The Administrator has advised that the community has been experiencing water stress, with a number of households experiencing a week or more without water, and households and businesses with low remaining supplies.

The desalination system will be provided as an alternative water source until the end of February, when the situation will be re-assessed.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Norfolk Island had its driest month on record in January with just 0.6 mm rainfall for the whole month. The previous driest month was February 1926 with 2.8 mm, and the previous driest January was in 1946 with 3.7 mm. Combined with low rainfall in both November and December, the most recent two- and three-month periods are the driest on record for Norfolk Island. Further data is available at www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/month/ria/summary.shtml

The Australian Government acknowledges and thanks Defence for its rapid response to the need of the Norfolk Island community for a short-term alternative water source. Emergency Management Australia has also provided invaluable support for this response.

Emergency Management Norfolk Island (EMNI), the Council and the Administrator agree that use of the Defence desalination system solution is appropriate at this time due to the drought and water scarcity being experienced.

The framework and processes, including priorities, for providing desalinated water to those in need are being finalised between the Department, EMNI and the Council. Further information on this will be provided in coming days.

Residents should continue to report exhaustion of water supplies or update their status via Customer Care on 22244, freecall 0100 or, afterhours, 55254.

People are encouraged to boil any water they receive from an unknown source for 20 minutes. Drinking water is available for purchase from local stores and UV filtered rainwater is available from a local supplier.

Water sharing in the community between neighbours, friends, family and strangers is still encouraged.

For more information on the work under way on water emergency prevention, please visit: www.norfolkisland.gov.nf/services/emergency-management

For more information on the CSIRO's Norfolk Island Water Resources Assessment project, please visit: www.regional.gov.au/territories/norfolk_island/norfolk_island_projects/norfolks_island_water_resources_assessment_project.aspx

Contact: media@infrastructure.gov.au | 1300 732 749