The Power and Water Corporation, trading as PowerWater, distributes and transmits electricity across the northern territory of Australia, whilst providing essential water and sewerage services to the people of the region. With an abundance of rural and remote areas in the northern territory, the government-owned corporation works to keep these places connected and powered to support the continued development of the territory’s future through accessible water and energy infrastructure. Therefore, PowerWater’s vision is to contribute to the Northern Territory’s economy and continue to service its customers better whilst embracing change, and diversity as its central core values.
PowerWater, a government-owned corporation, provides services in water, wastewater, electricity supply, power networks and gas, as well as a range of educational and environmental projects and initiatives to help promote the Northern Territory of Australia towards a supported, connected, and sustainable future. In terms of water, PowerWater provides complete water supply and waste services across the northern region in both urban and remote areas. As part of this role, PowerWater manages ground and surface water across 90 communities (18 urban and 12 remote) where water is mainly sourced from groundwater – especially for those in the most remote places. These remote communities include Darwin and Katherine where the people rely on surface water sources alone. In Darwin, for example, the Darwin River Dam provides 85% of Darwin’s water needs.
Establishing a secure water supply is vital and through key investment and development of infrastructure to provide high-quality water supply services, PowerWater can bring people seamless water supplies that can deal with the increasing population and subsequent demand for water supplies. By implementing great infrastructure across the northern region, PowerWater has shown its commitment to matching current and future water demands with its reliable and sustainable water services which will continue to serve the region for many years to come.
A key part of this infrastructure is its water treatment plant which deals with wastewater, working with the Department of Defence, is building a 10ml per day per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) treatment plant located in Katherine. Through this plant, it serves to treat the water across the region and help deliver clean and safe drinking water for all.
The second crucial part of PowerWater’s role is the power supplies and distribution networks which through most major centres the company distributes electricity across the power network. PowerWater is the market operator and system controller of the power network and provides regulation across the electrical systems. This is crucial in remote areas where it operates as the generator whilst also performing retailer functions to deliver power to the most rural places. Consequently, alongside its role as distributor, PowerWater is also the market operator which manages the wholesale exchange of electricity between licensed retailers and licensed generators. It is these generators which are crucial for maintaining power across the northern region and bringing freedom to those in remote areas with reliable access to electricity.
For Gas, PowerWater uses its gas supplies division which provides wholesale gas supply and transportation to large business customers. The company provides agreements which supply 90% of the electricity generation sector across the region, especially to large mining and heavy industrial businesses to help keep them operating and continually contributing to both local and national economies. Through the Northern Gas Pipeline, PowerWater provides competitively priced gas to the East Coast during its peak winter period when the Northern Territory is in its dry season and demand is low. The Pipeline allows for easy gas transportation both ways, which has created a range of opportunities for added competition across the expanded market which has increased the security of the supply for the region.
However, beyond power, water, and energy supply, PowerWater is focused on delivering projects and development which continue to benefit the people of Australia. One project PowerWater is currently undertaking is the Manton Dam, which is currently being restored to provide additional water supply to the region. The Manton Dam was originally the primary source of water for Darwin until the Darwin River Dam was commissioned in 1972. The Manton Dam was opened to recreation by the Northern Territory government in the late 1980s but was always a potential future water supply source. However, as the water demand continues to grow across the northern territory and the current water supply in the Darwin River Dam becoming increasingly affected by climate change and evaporation, the reopening of the previous dam provides a longer-term plan for continued water availability.
The project is part of the Darwin Region Water Supply Infrastructure Program hoping to return the Manton Dam to an operational drinking water supply source. PowerWater will apply additional treatment measures to ensure that the dam meets stringent drinking water quality standards. The recreational management plan for the reservoir will be developed in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government and once returned to service the Manton Dam will provide an additional 7,3000 megalitres of water a year to the Darwin region and water supply system. The completion of the restoration is expected in 2026.
In addition to these projects, PowerWater is driven by a mission to make a difference to the people living in the Northern Territory through projects that provide major partnerships, community grants, and sponsorships. One way PowerWater helps the community is through portable water stations at events, as well as projects which aim to help shape the future of the territory. Another way is through an education programme called ‘That’s My Water!’ which in 2023 saw a record 800 students attend the course from 9 schools from the Darwin region. The program invites students to work and learn alongside STEM industry professionals to investigate water sustainability.
In addition to community projects, PowerWater is committed to creating a greener future by ensuring that throughout its operations it does business in the most sustainable services. One of the key focuses for sustainable development is through renewable energy solutions. As the climate and geography of the Northern Territory expose it to a lot of sun, solar energy is the most commonly used to supplement other power generation. Therefore, to move the region towards increased renewable energy sources that are both beneficial to the planet and to the people of the region’s pockets (being a cost-effective alternative), Power Water is implementing solar across many remote communities to help reduce reliance on diesel in place of solar power.
A key example of this was highlighted earlier this year when Titjikala, located 130km south of Alice Springs, was powered by 83% renewable energy. The area is home to 200 residents, and through the implementation of solar panels, the region was able to be powered by renewable energy for an average of 20 hours a day. In Titjikala, PowerWater has a 400-kilowatt solar array, integrated with a 300-kilovolt-ampere (970-kilowatt hour) battery energy storage system. The Titjikala region is one of 25 communities which are part of the Power and Water Solar Energy Transformation Programme (SETuP). The storage of battery energy storage system technology enables the communities to access solar energy and allows diesel engines to be turned off during the day. The diesel engines are only necessary overnight when the battery energy storage system is depleted. The project in Titjikala was commissioned in March 2021 and is the largest off-grid solar program in remote communities which has enabled significant savings on diesel and transport costs for the local community.
Overall, PowerWater is a key government-owned corporation which is working to help establish essential infrastructure, water, sewage, gas, and electricity services across both urban and rural areas of the Northern Territory to communities that are connected and able to continue to develop economically. However, throughout every aspect of PowerWater’s operations is a central focus to implement change whether that be through supply or programmes which are for the benefit of the people across the region. By focusing on the natural elements available across the region, PowerWater is able to harness solar energy and bring both a reliable and stable renewable energy resource.