VICTORIA, Australia – The Victoria desalination plant has been mired in controversy ever since it was put on standby but now water supply from the large-scale development is helping to increase reservoir levels.
Following an order for 50 gigalitres of water for 2016-17, the government has said that storage levels are now 1.2 percent higher than what they would have otherwise been, thanks to the desalinated water.
A further order of 15 gigalitres of water has been placed from the Victoria desalination plant by the Andrews Labor Government for 2017-18.
The water order is based on advice from Melbourne Water in consultation with the three metropolitan water retailers.
Stored water in Melbourne is said to be 105 gigalitres lower than this time two years ago, with water levels having declined for 24 weeks in a row.
Melbourne households are not expected to face additional charges on their water bills for the water orders, which will be funded from the sale of surplus Renewable Energy Certificates.
Lisa Neville, minister for water for Victoria, said: “The plant was not built to be turned on just when our water supply reached critical levels. Instead its aim is to make sure that our water supply doesn’t fall to those levels in the first place.”
Completed in 2012, the AUS$3.5 billion project was awarded by the Victorian government to the AquaSure consortium (SUEZ and Thiess) to finance, design, build, own and operate (BOOT) over 30 years.
The 450,000 m3/day desalinationplant was designed to provide water for four million people until 2039 but was put on standby after Australia’s drought eased.
It was in March 2016 when operator AquaSure received a supply notice from the government for 50 gigalitres, to be supplied between July 2016 and June 2017.
However, the Victorian government came under fire at the time for the order, which the opposition party claimed was not necessary.
Furthermore, at the end of last year major equipment failure was reported at the site during re-commissioning, when a switchgear was reportedly damaged .
As a result of the equipment failure, Fitch Ratings placed the minus A rating of AquaSure Finance’s 3.5 billion Australian dollar debt on Rating Watch Negative.