Victoria mulls waking sleeping desalination plant to ease drought

Victoria's desalination plant may be brought back online after being idle since 2012 to help ease recent drought conditions...

Suez Wonthaggi

Suez Wonthaggi

The 450,000 m3/day desalination plant currently standing idle in Victoria could be fired back up to help ease drought conditions in the region.

Completed in 2012, the 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.

Costing AUS$3.5 billion, the plant was designed to provide water for four million people until 2039 but was put on standby after the drought eased.

More recently, a lack of rainfall in North-West Victoria over the last couple of years has urged the government to consider start using the plant.

Lisa Neville, environment and water minister of Victoria, reportedly told Victoria’s parliament: “Much of Victoria has received below average rainfall since July 2014 and in fact some parts of our state have received the lowest inflows on record, worse than the millennium drought.”

The project in Wonthaggi has been referred to by Neville as an “insurance policy”.

However, as reported by the Guardian, the potential use of the plant could prove “politically tricky” for the Labor government as a result of fears that it may drive up water bills.

Estimates suggests it costs Victoria AUS$620 million a year to keep the plant running, despite not being fully operation.

Australia delivered six large scale desalination plants over an eight year period, costing AUD$12 billion.

Although having plants on standby after a multi-billion dollar build out brought a lot of criticism to Australia’s governments, there is a belief that, as in the Victoria case, these plants will be used.

Neil Palmer, CEO of the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination (NCEDA), told WWi last year (read WWi article) that: “Australia has a very variable climate and two things are certain: there will be droughts in the future and population and water demand will grow. So some of the desalination plants that aren't being used at the moment are essential to provide future water security, particularly to Sydney and Melbourne.”

Elsewhere, in North America the Charles E. Meyer Desalination plant in Santa Barbara is being refurbished to be brought back online after being mothballed (read article).


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