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The Advertiser - April 14, 2008 11:30pm - MEREDITH BOOTH

WESTERN Australia's Water Corporation has spent $678 million in the past decade to almost double its storage capacity - half South Australia's water infrastructure spend over the same time.

WA Water Corporation chief executive Jim Gill, who will speak at the Water Down Under 2008 conference in Adelaide tomorrow, said WA's earlier response to climate change offered some insight into SA's response.

Its 45-gigalitre-a-year seawater desalination plant south of Perth now provides 17 per cent of the capital city's drinking water at a cost of $400 million. A second $955 million desalination plant will be built in WA.

``It is acknowledged nationally that WA's Water Corporation responded more quickly and decisively to climate change than any other Australian jurisdiction,' Mr Gill said.

He said WA had increased storage capacity to 192 gigalitres as it prepared to meet an extra 150 gigalitres in demand by 2031.

``Many other Australian capital cities have resorted to severe water restrictions due to a lack of rainfall. However, Perth enjoys relatively moderate water controls as a result of a range of initiatives designed to ensure future security of supply,' he said in an abstract of his speech to the conference.

In comparison, SA Water chief operating officer John Ringham said SA Water had spent $1.2 billion in the past 10 years on new and improved infrastructure and would spend about $3 billion in the next five years on the desalination plant and to double storage capacity in the Mt Lofty Ranges.

Present storage capacity for SA's 1.4 million people was 200 gigalitres - more than for WA's population of  two million.

``We have to maintain about $8 billion worth of assets. I believe that over the past decade we have invested appropriately,' he told an audience at an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce event last week.

Mr Ringham said the average age of SA's water infrastructure assets was 50 years.

"We have one of the lowest leakage levels of water industry players in Australia . . . between 5 and 7 per cent,' he said.