A landmark plan to save the near bone-dry Perry Lakes is a step closer with the Federal Government to announce funding today to pump in billions of litres of treated waste water now going out to sea.
But the project has yet to get the green light from State authorities and is at the centre of a row between the Town of Cambridge and the Water Corporation, which wants to charge almost $200,000 a year to deliver the water.
Under the CSIRO-developed plan, up to two billion litres of highly treated waste water from the Subiaco waste water treatment plant would be pumped each year into 1km of underground trenches built near the Perry Lakes reserve.
Creating a dam-like effect, it would force the natural groundwater that flows from Herdsman Lake west towards the ocean to bank up, gradually raising lake levels.
Parliamentary Secretary for WA Gary Gray said the Federal Government would provide the $2.589 million needed for infrastructure for the project, which was expected to increase the water table about 1m over time.
But he said it was conditional on the council formalising a contract with the Federal Government, which mayor Simon Withers said had to happen within six weeks.
Mr Withers said talks with the Water Corporation yesterday had been "very promising", but he maintained the council would not pay for the water.
"The way I look at it, it's their water and they have to choose whether they're going to pump it into the ocean or pump it into Perry Lakes," he said.
Mr Withers said the project would make a huge difference to the lakes, which had been dry for decades.
State Water Minister Graham Jacobs' office referred questions to the Water Corporation.
Corporation spokesman Phil Kneebone said the water for the Perry Lakes project was free and the $200,000 figure, which was no longer current, related to operation and maintenance costs.
"The (amount) to be determined will involve the most appropriate option to get the water from the Subiaco treatment plant to Perry Lakes," he said.
Mr Kneebone said the eventual amount to be paid to the Water Corporation would incorporate moving the water through pipelines and any construction needed.