Thank you for your letter of XX XXXXX 2009 to the Premier regarding the Wonthaggi desalination plant. I am responding on the Premier’s behalf.
Victoria has a long history as a leader in developing innovative approaches to manage water resources.
Victoria hasn’t really sought a new source of water since the Thomson dam was proposed in the 1970’s, the Government have sat on their hands despite many, many years of warnings and continue to lag in the development of aquifer storage / recovery, purified recycled water and incentives for rainwater tanks and continue to waste 30 Gl per annum by allowing logging in our catchments.
For example, Victoria was the first jurisdiction in Australia to unbundle our water entitlements – which allows them to be bought and sold independently of land - enabling them to be traded more freely and to support farmers to manage their future more flexibly.
I’m not sure this is a good thing, water available to the highest bidder and in unregulated? quantities!
In keeping with this history of innovation, in 2007, the Victorian Government released Our Water Our Future: The Next Stage of the Government’s Water Plan – to secure water supplies for a growing population and economy in the face of drought and
to add to
climate change. Innovative approaches such as water recycling and conservation are
important components of this plan.
And these options are likely to be further sidelined due to the excessive size of the desalination plant
For example, the Water Plan includes an upgrade of Melbourne’s Eastern Treatment Plant to provide more than 100 billion litres of Class A recycled water a year from 2012.
And then pumping the majority out to sea (more than 60% of it for decades to come).
The Government is investigating potential uses for this water including watering parks and gardens, irrigation projects and third-pipe systems in new housing estates.
But don’t have the foresight to allow the obvious and ultimate sustainable option; further treatment of the Class A water to purified recycled water to allow it to be safely used as drinking water via our reservoirs, or via Aquifer Storage / Recovery.
Investigations are currently underway to identify projects which are both cost effective and have significant community benefits.
Assistance is also being provided through the Smart Water Fund to encourage industry to develop innovative solutions to recycle water. For example, the Smart Water Fund has provided funding to the Melbourne Aquarium to recycle up to 20,000 litres
(this is just the quantity of a single household water tank)
of water per week, through a combination of rooftop rainwater collection,
Melbourne Aquarium only have a tiny 5000 litre tank!, and why aren’t tanks being retrofitted as mandatory to all public buildings?
desalination and reclaimed water from freshwater displays.
(what are the economics of doing this for such a small return, this ain’t going to solve Melbourne’s water sustainability)
As a result of Government investment in water recycling since 1999, Melbourne now uses more recycled water than any other Australian city.
(but still at a level to be very ashamed of)
In 2007/08, Melbourne used 66.7 billion litres of recycled water – almost three times the amount used by the next closest Australian city.
And nearly half this is completely bogus use ‘on site’ at treatment plants, flushing pipes, etc. The rest is largely low grade agricultural use. South East QLD and Adelaide are way ahead.
The Government is also encouraging business and industry to reduce water use through a range of targeted programs, including the WaterMAP program, which requires large water users to develop a water savings plan,
which the government doesn’t enforce, or penalise if targets not met
and the provision of grants to innovative water saving projects through the Smart Water Fund. With this assistance, Melbourne’s business and industry have reduced their water use by 38 per cent compared with the 1990s.
They did this largely off their own bat early and there has been very little improvement over recent years with the ‘Smart Water’ Fund and other ‘initiatives’
As you can see, the Government has adopted a range of innovative approaches to secure Victoria’s water supplies. However, saving and recycling water is not enough and Victoria needs to increase its water supplies. This is why the Victorian Government committed to building a 150 GL desalination plant at Wonthaggi.
Ignoring the economic and environmental benefits available from the alternative augmentation options, and in fact excluding them by the obscene scale of desalination chosen.
The desalination plant is being delivered as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) under the Government’s Partnerships Victoria framework. The Partnerships Victoria framework requires that bids for the desalination plant project be tested against the Government’s benchmark, the Public Sector Comparator (PSC).
An instrument that is not transparent to public scrutiny and just a tool to justify poor government decision making, see: http://www.theage.com.au/cgi-bin/common/popupPrintArticle.pl?path=/articles/2009/07/08/1246732378094.html
It enables the Government to test whether a private investment proposal offers value for money in comparison with the most efficient form of public procurement. The PSC underscores the Victorian Government’s commitment to only use PPPs if they represent good value for money and are in the public interest.
Why can’t we see the figures then? The State Government refuse to release the business case for abandoned use of recycled water from the Eastern Treatment Plant. They haven’t even done a business case for the desalination plant. The public’s confidence in it’s government is seriously diminished by this kind of behaviour.
Desalinated water will be delivered from the private sector to the State Government owned water authorities who will deliver this water to households. The Government will own the water, thus the public interest and ownership of water is protected.
But the government has given this consortium guarantees to purchase their water ahead of cheaper options, and refuses to disclose the contracts around its supply (even after saying that the contracts would be made available after signing).
The AquaSure consortium has been awarded the contract to build the $3.5 billion
$4.8 billion at least, as admitted by AquaSure chairman on ABC’s Stateline program 31st July 2009. Click here to see a short segment.
desalination plant which will result in as many as 1,700 direct new jobs.
Far fewer jobs than would have been secured by cheaper sustainable alternatives. And they would have been long term ongoing jobs where the desal plant will only have about 50 ongoing jobs long term.
The delivery of this project will provide a new drinking water supply that is not rainfall dependent.
Recycling and efficiency measures are also rainfall independant, and there is so much totally untapped stormwater that this argument becomes a bit pale.
Once in operation the plant will provide 150 billion litres of water each year to Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Which regions? South Gippsland Water doesn’t need it, having a water security plan in place to 2050 without desalination.
The project represents value for money for water users,
Not at five or more times current water price as would appear to be the case from the price tag ($4.8+billion)
with AquaSure able to secure finance for the project in a challenging economic climate.
Only with the State (us) taking a substantial chunk of the risk. What was that about PPP’s allowing the private sector to bear the risk?
The project will have the flexibility to supply between 0 and 100 per cent of the plant’s capacity in block increments.
However the government have said the desal must operate at full capacity until dam levels at the lowest time of year are 65%, equivalent to up to 80% at the wettest part of the year! And we will pay a fee to AquaSure if no, or anything less than 100% of capacity is ordered. Possibly even if it is operating at full capacity, we aren’t being given any of these details.
The project includes innovative features such as a secure underground power supply;
Another EES advantage for the region, i.e. having our ‘at capacity’ grid infrastructure improved, being reneged on with power being delivered to the plant only,
a commitment to undertake renewable energy projects to offset the plant’s energy use;
Thus tying up a huge chunk of renewables to cover new and unnecessary energy consumption, rather than using renewables to actually offset existing emissions to allow a reduction in overall emissions, and a chance at a safe climate future,
and delivering benefits to the local community, including a new broadband fibre optic cable
will this be the next promise (like upgrading our power infrastructure) to be reneged on? AquaSure employees are telling us the broadband cable to be laid is just to service sensor, valve actuation, etc, of the pipe and pumping infrastructure, and not to be available for communities along the pipe route.
and a secure
local water supply.
While via 8000 litres of effluent discharge, disruptive underwater noise and 30 tonnes per day of killed sealife contributing to an environmental marine tragedy; shameful while sustainable and cheaper alternatives are not being fulfilled.
Thank you for writing to the Premier to express your interest in Victoria’s water supplies.