Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What a difference the rain makes...

... a few months of showers, full dams and suddenly, desalination sours.

With apologies to Renee Olstead.

The long Victorian drought encouraged many ideas over the years in the letters pages of The Age, suggesting that if only we built more dams, or a pipeline from the Snowy then all would be well in the Garden State and people could continue to water their roses. Even senior staff members got in on the act suggesting that water from Tasmanian rivers be moved (by gravity) from Tasmania under Bass Straight to Melbourne. Ken Davidson is not alone in apparently thinking that any fresh water that (God forbid) reaches the ocean is a waste - never mind the environment of fisheries in the estuaries. Or the fact that Tasmania was suffering its own water shortage at the same time - so much so that Basslink for a period was not the green electricity supplier to the mainland, but a carbon hungry umbilical for Tasmania. Ken was right about one thing. The desalination deal was probably going to turn out bad for the state of Victoria.

Victorians 'stuck with desal plant'

Farrah Tomazin and Royce Millar

VICTORIANS are "stuck" with Australia's largest desalination plant despite an eventual price tag of $24 billion that is expected to double household water bills over the next five years.

Premier Ted Baillieu yesterday slammed the centrepiece of the former Brumby government's water policy, but baulked at breaking contracts because of cost and the fear of discouraging future investment in Victoria.

''What we now have is a white elephant and a very expensive white elephant and Victorians will be paying for it over the next 30 years,'' Mr Baillieu said. The government released figures indicating Victorians would pay $19.3 billion for the construction of the Wonthaggi plant and its operation over the next 28 years - even if no water is used - and almost $24 billion if the maximum 150 billion litres a year are purchased.

Figures released yesterday ... show that:

■ Victorians will pay about $654 million a year from 2012-13, even if no water is taken from the plant. If the maximum 150 billion litres is taken, the annual cost will be $763 million.

■ In 2012-13 desal water will cost between $5.09 a kilolitre (1000 litres) and $13.68 a kilolitre, depending on the volume purchased. This compares with the current residential rate of about $1.50 a kilolitre.

■ The Aquasure deal commits the government to buy 150 billion litres of water a year as long as Melbourne's dams are less than 65 per cent full.

AquaSure chief executive Chris Herbert said: "We welcome the resolution of this matter and look forward to working with the government in completing and operating the plant in the interests of all Victorians."

I'm sure he did. The tears of rage at the wanton waste of Labour are possibly crocodilian. The Liberal campaign of 2006, with Ted Baillieu fronting as leader made the following promise:

To these we add a commitment to build a 50,000 megalitre a year water desalination plant on either Westernport Bay or to the west of Melbourne.

Chastising the Labour party for their tardiness, by the time 2010 came around Ted and the Liberals - perhaps breathing a sigh of relief that they didn't actually win in 2006 and honor their commitment - could play the game the other way.

The problems and potential problems were there all along.

Environmental study gives desal plant green light

Adam Morton, August 21, 2008

MORE than 1.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas will be pumped out during the construction of Victoria's proposed desalination plant, and another 1.2 million tonnes emitted each year once it starts boosting Melbourne's water supply.

Desalination plant may be a waste: study

March 11, 2008

Victoria's planned desalination plant could be an unnecessary waste of energy, a study of Melbourne's water supply needs has found. "The government's own numbers show that Victoria does not need this desalination plant. It is an energy-consuming, expensive waste. And it will increase massively the cost for Melbourne water users," he said.

True cost of desal plant concealed

Peter Ker December 12, 2009

But Mr Baillieu and the Liberals would argue that it would of course have all been different under their management. Easy to say in hind sight. But then:

Premier Ted Baillieu yesterday slammed the centerpiece of the former Brumby government's water policy, but baulked at breaking contracts because of cost and the fear of discouraging future investment in Victoria.
Resorting to desalination indicates either waste, inappropriate use or that the population may be overshooting local carrying capacity.


Journal Articles from  Desalination

Chemical impacts from seawater desalination plants – a case study of the northern Red Sea

Environmental impact and impact assessment of seawater desalination

‘‘Direct’’ and socially-induced environmental impacts of desalination

Concentrate and other waste disposals from SWRO plants: characterization and reduction of their environmental impact.

Environmental impact of brine disposal on Posidonia seagrasses

The footprint of the desalination processes on the environment


Desalination and the Persian Gulf

Disclosure: I did not vote in any of the above elections, and am no longer a rusted on Liberal or Labour voter.

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