Alcoa’s operations in Western Australia will have to go forward using substantially less water after local authorities reduce its allotment by one-third last week.
Local authorities justified the cut by saying that the pressure put on the Cattamarra Coal Measures aquifer was not sustainable. Reduction will begin in 2026 and is expected to reduce Alcoa’s overall usage by 2.5 billion liters.
A Department of Water and Environmental Regulations spokesperson told local media that the move was done to protect a wide area of the water supply.
“We are working with Alcoa to reduce the impacts of their abstraction, which is contributing to declining trends not only in the Pinjarra but also the Nambeelup sub-area.”
“These risks and impacts can be appropriately managed through reducing groundwater abstraction,” continued the spokesperson. “The department will provide assistance to Alcoa for the investigation of water use efficiency.”
“Allowing more abstraction in sub-areas where groundwater levels are declining would threaten the resource’s capacity to supply the required quantity and quality of groundwater into the future.”
For its part, Alcoa said it knows of the coming water cuts, but it did not specify whether it has found alternative sources.
“We are investigating alternative water sources for our operational needs at Pinjarra Alumina Refinery.”
Alcoa has already targeted cutting its water usage by five percent at certain operations in Australia by 2025.
Peel-Harvey Catchment council chief executive Jane O’Malley spoke out in favor of the reduction, noting the significant drop in local groundwater, saying locals had an obligation to protect waterways in the area.
“Groundwater flowing into the system has decreased significantly, our lakes are becoming more salty and changing the structure of these magnificent ecosystems.”
“Our environment relies on water – we can’t keep taking it and expect it to remain healthy and productive,” she concluded.