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.
Westpac Bank espouses their environmental credentials in relation to investment decisions for the money we place in their care. Yet now they are allowing the desalination plant to go ahead, preventing better and cheaper options from an environmental point of view, from going ahead, by backing the desalination plant’s construction.
Download, print and post a letter addressed to their Board of Directors here, or
download a letter to their Corporate Responsibility Department here, or
download an alternative letter to their Corporate Responsibility Department here, or
Cut and paste bits or the whole of these letters, or use your own ideas and the points below, into an email to email@example.com, or you can ring,
ask for their ‘Corporate Responsibility officer’, Westpac - 132032 or (02) 82530769, National - 1300 889398.
The Board of Directors
Westpac Bank Head Office
275 Kent St,
Sydney, NSW 2000
Westpac’s Investment in the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant:
On the 31st July, Aquasure, a consortium made up of Suez Environment (affiliated to Degremont), Theiss and Maquarie Capital announced that it would be building the Wonthaggi desalination plant.
Aquasure and the State of Victoria secured a financing package lead by Westpac and NAB, and supported by banks from Belgium, China, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and the UK.
Westpac’s decision to finance the project is contrary to Westpac’s stated principles of responsibility toward the environment. Westpac could not legitimately claim that this project met even the most basic of environment requirements, due to the following:
There has been little, if any, critical analysis of the desalination project promoting and complying with the principles of ecological sustainable development, which includes the precautionary principle.
Westpac claim to have a set of corporate environmental principles, promoted in television advertisements, to guide their investment strategies. I find it difficult to see how they can be reconciled with investing in the Wonthaggi desalination plant.
I appreciate that Westpac would be undertaking due diligence on this proposed investment and that it may find this investment not consistent with its stated corporate responsibilities and obligations toward the environment.
I urge the bank to investigate the many threats to the environment caused by the construction and operation of the desalination plant in Wonthaggi. To quote your own slogan “It’s about doing the right thing”
Yours faithfully …………………………………………………………………………
Please help us create
Help us explain why the….
The official government line is still that the final contracts with either Veolia/Connex or Degremont/Suez, to build the proposed desalination plant, are not yet signed, and may not be until after August, due to the global financial crisis. The complexity of signing a 30 year contract with a global “water baron” such as Veolia/Connex or Degremont/Suez, could also be contributing to the delay.
Allied politicians and journalists have actually been listening to us, over the past 2 years. We just need them to do more, now, today!
Cut and paste the proformas provided at “letter ideas“, or below, write your own letter, or combine ours with yours…..you don’t need to understand all the issues, just express your outrage!
For up-to-date contact details for State and Federal politicians, go to
For added inspiration, take another stroll along Williamsons Beach – you may see a seal riding the waves with the surfers, a whale swimming by, a stunning sunset, or all three!
The government is telling us, that we will pay for this desalination plant, that nobody voted for, even when there are so many better options, with much better outcomes.
We should all be outraged, and Watershed encourages you to write letters. This is something that anybody can do, you don’t need to be an expert, or understand all the issues, just express your outrage. Don’t be ashamed to cut and paste bits of other people’s work, this is all we ever get as responses from government!
Here is a list of politicians email addresses to send letters to:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Senator.email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Greg.Hunt.MP@aph.gov.au, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, edward.o’firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Malcolm.Turnbull.MP@aph.gov.au, email@example.com
Bass Coast residents have been accused of nimby-ism in opposing the Victorian Desalination Plant. But the imminent signing of a contract with one of two powerful multinational water companies, Veolia/Connex and Degremont/Suez, makes us ask, on behalf of all Victorians: What if our state is tied to huge budget blow-outs for the next 30 years? Will we pay for desalinated water we don’t need, as in NSW/Queensland ? Is desalinated water sieved through the bodies of dead sea creatures the best option?
To the Victorian Government we say : Don’t sign a secret contract for which future generations will pay through the nose!
Tanks, pay once…..Desal, pay forever!
I look forward to your reply,
Dear Premier Brumby and other Parliamentarians,
I write to express my concern about the proposed desalination plant in Wonthaggi, Victoria.
Given the environmental damage and massive greenhouse gas emissions generated from a desalination plant of this magnitude, it is time to rethink water policy for the people of Victoria.
You’re not keen on the idea of drinking recycled water? Well perhaps it is time to consider what you are proposing to drink….
The offspring and feedstock of the sea creatures listed below, and some of the creatures themselves (penguins, salmon trout, crayfish, gulls) are small enough to fit through the grate at the end of the 4-metre wide intake pipe of the proposed Desalination Plant.
Along with 380,000 small marine organisms per second, they would be crushed and sieved through your potential drinking water, then dumped as landfill, at 50 tonnes per day.
Adding to this environmental devastation will be 8000 litres of toxic effluent per second, discharged onto a rock platform, now abundant with marine life, just 1km off the now pristine Williamson’s Beach.
Just a few kilometres around the coast from Williamsons Beach, where the government plans to build the desalination plant, is this……
the magnificent Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park.
Mr Brumby and other members of the Victorian ALP,
Compounding the water crisis is the lack of water flow for the nearly completed North South Pipeline and the continued loss of water from years of logging in Melbourne’s water catchments.
What we want from government is sensible water policy to secure Melbourne’s future water supply.
No pipeline, no desal plant, no logging our water catchments.
Stormwater capture and water tanks, recycling, upgrading aging infrastructure, mandatory water sensitive design, water efficiencies/conservation, are our water future.
I urge the Victorian Government to abandon its poorly devised ‘Water Plan’.
Do not sign contracts for the Victorian Desalination Plant. I look forward to your response to these matters I have raised.
Dear Premier Brumby and Colleagues,
It’s raining. It’s pouring!
But Melbourne is snoring.
She went to bed with a French water baron(?)
Poor Melbourne was brainwashed by morning….
With Melbourne’s water capacity below 30% , the time for installing water-saving devices and rolling out the water tanks on an industrial scale is NOW! The time for diverting recycled water from the Eastern Treatment Plant to the La Trobe Valley, or other opotions is ASAP! The time for North-South Pipeline and large-scale Desalination is NEVER!
I urge the Victorian Government to abandon its poorly devised ‘Water Plan’.
Do not sign contracts for the Victorian Desalination Plant!
Trusting in what remains of your good sense and integrity,
We are gravely concerned that the Victorian State Government is about to commit current and future generations of Victorians to contracts that do not meet their long-term desires or needs in relation to water policy.
A ’silver bullet’ mentality has been seized upon, with two large infrastructure projects being proposed to solve Melbourne’s water woes.
The North-South pipeline should be dropped. It would be a minor part of the solution, given the effects of climate change and drought on available flows, making this a very expensive option for the dollars spent, the volumes sourced and the communities affected.
The other, larger part of the current ‘Water Plan’, is a seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant proposed for the Bass Coast. The funding model chosen is a ‘Public Private Partnership’ (PPP), creating a necessity to profit from water. Veolia (Connex), who have just lost the right to run Melbourne’s rail network, or another French company Degremont/Suez, will lead a consortium to implement and profit from this plant. An internet search reveals that both these companies have questionable corporate, environmental and human rights records. Internationally they have recently lost sizeable chunks of their business as a result of adverse publicity and boycott campaigns. The Victorian Government is about to hand over one third of our water supply to one of these consortia.
Seawater desalination is expensive, provides few long-term jobs, has huge climate implications and creates another effluent outfall to the marine environment. The proposal is of such a scale that there is only one of these SWRO desalination plants in the world that is operating at a larger scale. *
Here lies a major concern. Depending on conditions in the north of the state, between 50 and 60 percent more water will be coming into Melbourne annually from these two options than we have been using. With this level of expensive “new” water in the system, where will be the incentive for sustainable water policy over the coming decades? **
The State has a duty to secure basic necessities like water supply, but it must consider long term social, economic and environmental outcomes. How can a PPP provide an alignment of public and private needs to achieve these outcomes, while profiting from a desalination plant? Will the momentum, desire, and ability, to use water more wisely in Melbourne be lost. Sustainable options exist now at a fraction of the implementation, operation and environmental cost of desalination. Investment in these options could effectively be ruled out for decades if the government signs contracts with Veolia or Degremont/Suez worth billions of dollars. We will lose the chance for low impact, high job yield solutions to our current water stresses.
In the light of having obligated Melbourne water users to build the desalination plant, the State Government has just released and abandoned a business case to make use of recycled water from a promised upgrade to the Eastern Treatment Plant. Some 100 billion litres of Class-A recycled water will be pumped out to sea through the existing effluent pipe at Gunnamatta. Over the next twenty odd years the government has said it will be able to find a use for only at most a further 40 billion of this 100 billion litres. The potential from Melbourne’s storm water, to save massive volumes while delivering large benefits to our urban streams and bays, is now similarly in doubt ***. Large savings that could be made by not using potable water where it is not required and by delivering water efficient devices into all homes and businesses may also be in doubt. What will be the fate of these options when a consortium has designed contracts with its profits in mind? Will they be permitted to provide water in opposition to the consortium’s product?
We the undersigned believe the current Water Plan is fundamentally flawed by bringing huge volumes of “new” water to Melbourne, adding to a sewage and wastewater system that is already under stress. Why is the Government excluding use of the massive volumes of waste and storm-water currently in Melbourne, thus reducing infrastructure stresses, marine and urban stream ecosystem degradation, and achieving water security at a fraction of the overall economic and carbon cost?
If the State Government is already financially obligated to the multinational consortia in some way, there should be no reason why the companies wouldn’t be prepared to be involved in alternative recycling or stormwater capture options instead, preferably in partnership with us, through our Government.
We ask the State Government to urgently rethink the cost-benefits of sourcing water from the north, and of the scale and desirability of the current desalination proposal in light of more environmentally sustainable options that are available right now at less cost.
We ask the Government not to sign contracts with the Veolia or Degremont/Suez consortia that will commit all Victorians to higher water bills, poor environmental outcomes, fewer jobs and the handing over of water infrastructure into private hands for the benefit of overseas investors.
* ** *** see www.watershedvictoria.org.au