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how_desalination_plant_ended_droughts [2018/04/21 03:41] (current)
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 +====== How The Desalination Plant Ended Droughts ======
  
 +//based on advertisement on THE AUSTRALIAN OCTOBER 18, 2014 12:00AM//
 +
 +//Call it conservation of energy or something else, build a desalination plan, secure water for the state, nature concedes defeat and turns on the water works, uses humans to turn off the water plant so it can drought again. ​ California closed the books on one of the driest “water years” on record, looking also to drought proof their cities, what will nature do next?//
 +
 +{{::​unnamed-1024x573.jpg?​nolink|Desalination Plant}}
 +
 +THE consumer bill for the nation’s largest desalination plant is set to rise to more than $2 billion, as heavy rain and soaring dam levels make redundant tremendously expensive facilities across the eastern seaboard.
 +
 +New figures obtained by The Weekend Australian show the Victorian desalination plant, southeast of Melbourne, will have cost water users $1.2bn by the November 29 state election, rising to $2bn by the end of the next financial year.
 +
 +The cost has soared, despite no water having been drawn from the facility since its opening in 2012 and dams being more than 80 per cent full.
 +
 +The full cost of building, running and maintaining the plant is forecast to climb markedly in the next three decades.
 +
 +The Victorian experience has been replicated across Australia’s east and south. Plants in Victoria, NSW, Adelaide and on the Gold Coast cost more than $10bn to build but their operations have been effectively mothballed.
 +
 +Sydney’s plant is dismissed as a white elephant, with no water produced since 2012, despite costing consumers almost $200 million a year, or about $100 a year for every water user.
 +
 +In Queensland, the Gold Coast desalination plant built by the previous Labor government at Tugun cost $1.2bn but has been effectively mothballed for the past few years.
 +
 +In Adelaide, the 100-gigalitre-capacity desalination plant cost $2.2bn to build and was finished in December 2012 but the plant, publicly owned but operated by private contractors AdelaideAqua,​ will be mothballed from January 15 next year after a two-year “proving period”.
 +
 +Serious questions are being asked about why state governments past and present have invested billions of dollars in desalination plants when high dam levels — such as 88 per cent in Sydney — make the infrastructure surplus to requirement.
 +
 +The great drought ended in 2010, leaving Victoria with a desalination plant about 130km from Melbourne capable of producing 150 billion litres of water a year and a bill over 30 years of as much as $22.5bn, depending on whether, or how much, water is used.
 +
 +Average yearly water-bill increases in Melbourne of about $200 have been recorded.
 +
 +Assuming no water has been collected from the Victorian desalination plant by 2039-40, consumers will still have paid more than $18bn to keep the plant going when all costs are included, a prospect that is expected to dominate debate in the final stages of the state election campaign.
 +
 +Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh told The Weekend Australian yesterday that the plant was a “gigantic,​ permanent stain’’ on Labor and its leader, Daniel Andrews. “Every time a Melbourne household gets a water bill, it is a reminder that Labor can’t manage money, can’t manage major projects, and can’t tell the truth,​’’ Mr Walsh said.
 +
 +Data reveals that Melbourne water users will have paid almost $1.1bn by the end of August for the management and maintenance of the plant, with payments rising to more than $1.2bn by the end of the election campaign and $2bn by the end of the next financial year. The payments began in December 2012 but the breaking of the drought in 2010 means the government has opted against making a call on the desalination plant to produce water. The government has placed a zero water order for the supply period ending next June.
 +
 +Under the deal struck by Labor, Melbourne households are still required to pay about $600m via an annual holding charge, regardless of whether water is taken.
 +
 +Melbourne water consumers effectively fund the plant via their water bills, exposing Labor to a cost-of-living campaign in the final weeks of the election campaign.
 +
 +AquaSure was contracted by Victoria to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the plant.
 +
 +The Wonthaggi plant was embroiled in controversy amid claims it was being built on the back of union sweetheart deals and dramatically generous pay and conditions.
 +
 +The NSW government sold its plant to a consortium of Hastings Funds Management and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for $2.3bn, but with a 50-year lease that guaranteed them payments whether the plant was working or not.
 +
 +Mr Walsh said the fifth anniversary of the Victorian plant had been marked in June and that despite the cost of the water and the plant, it could only ever produce a third of Melbourne’s water needs. “If we are re-elected in November, the Coalition will continue to look at all means of reducing Labor’s desal burden.”
 +
 +Additional reporting: Mark Coultan, Meredith Booth, Andrew Fraser
 +
 +====== Dry Years Highlight Need for Conservation,​ Desalination ======
 +
 +By Mark Weston
 +
 +At the start of October, California closed the books on one of the driest “water years” on record — and began what could be a fourth consecutive dry year stretching into 2015. The lack of rain and snow, combined with extremely high temperatures,​ has created some of the most serious drought conditions the state has faced in decades.
 +
 +Without significant snowfall in the Sierra Nevada this coming winter, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California may reduce imported water deliveries to the San Diego County Water Authority and its other customers in 2015. It’s too soon to predict how that will play out, but two things are already clear: Every San Diego County resident should be saving water now to preserve storage reserves for 2015, and investments our region has made in a diversified water supply portfolio will reduce the impact of possible imported water supply cutbacks by MWD.
 +
 +Water conservation has been a vital piece of our region’s overall water supply strategy for years, and per capita water use is down by more than 20 percent countywide since 2007. Despite very hot weather in recent months, San Diego County residents are continuing to heed calls for increased water conservation,​ including mandatory water-use restrictions in place across the county. Regional water use in August was 6 percent lower than the same month the year before, and it was down 4 percent in September ​ compared to September 2013 — even with higher temperatures in those months this year compared to last year.
 +
 +That’s a positive trend that should make every resident proud — and we need to keep building on that success. Each of us must take a harder look at how we use water to ensure that we not wasting our valuable natural resource. For the majority of homes and businesses, the biggest gains can be made by improving water-use efficiency outdoors — upgrading to low-flow rotary sprinkler heads, removing lawns that no longer serve a purpose, eliminating irrigation overspray onto paved surfaces, and complying with restrictions by local water agencies. For more ideas, resources and rebate offers, go to www.whenindrought.org.
 +
 +While such steps may seem minor, collective efforts by 3.1 million residents can make a significant difference for weathering drought, as has the Water Authority’s overall water supply diversification strategy. The cornerstone of that plan was securing independent and highly reliable water transfers in the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement of 2003 — enough to serve roughly 360,000 homes in 2014. Those transfers helped reduce the impact of MWD’s supply allocations during the drought of 2009-11, and San Diego County is receiving even more independent Colorado River water today.
 +
 +The next big piece of the region’s diversification strategy is the Carlsbad Desalination Project, the largest seawater desalination project in the Western Hemisphere. It is expected to start producing 50 million gallons a day by fall 2015, enough drought-proof water for about 112,000 homes each year. The desalinated water will be used day-in and day-out no matter the weather, but it will be especially valuable when imported water supplies are reduced.
 +
 +In addition, a number of local water agencies are exploring ways to expand the region’s water recycling and potable reuse efforts to maximize the value of each drop nature provides. History has taught us that water supplies in the arid Southwest are uncertain — but we can continue to enjoy the quality of life that we prize in San Diego County through prudent investments and increasing our commitment to conservation.
 +
 +====== City Council may reopen Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant in event of low water levels this coming winter ======
 +
 +In light of the current drought crisis in California, government officials in Santa Barbara are taking steps toward reopening the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant which has been in standby mode since the mid-90s.
 +
 +In May, the City Council of Santa Barbara approved $746,025 to reactivate the out-of-service Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant in order to ensure a fresh water supply to Santa Barbara residents. The city constructed the reverse osmosis desalination facility in response to a severe drought in Santa Barbara from 1986 to 1991.
 +
 +According to Water Supply Analyst for the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department Kelly Dyer, the desalination plant’s reopening may cause a hike in the price Santa Barbara consumers pay for water. Dyer also said costs to restore the plant are staggering and could be shouldered by Santa Barbara residents.
 +
 +“We are looking at a rough cost of about 32.4 million dollars of capital costs to start up the plant again. This is not including the projected 5.2 million dollars for operating it at full capacity,​” Dyer said. “It could raise an average water user’s monthly bill by approximately 20 to 25 dollars”.
 +
 +Due to these costs, the city of Santa Barbara is waiting until it is evident the facility is needed. The desalination facility’s actual reconstruction has yet to be put into motion.
 +
 +Bob Roebuck, Santa Barbara Board of Water Commissioners project engineer, said the city is in the process of searching for companies specializing in water treatment that could potentially get the facility working again.
 +
 +“Right now we are working on preliminary design and permitting,​” Roebuck said. “In this phase, we are looking for companies that would like to have the construction contract, should it be approved.”
 +
 +This approval will be decided by the city council based on results of the current water year, which started Oct. 1 and will end in April 2015. According to Roebuck, the plant will have to open if reservoir levels remain low during this coming winter.
 +
 +“The bottom line is this: will it rain enough to fill the reservoirs this winter?” Roebuck said. “If we have a dry winter, we will go to city council in April 2015 to have them approve the contract.”
 +
 +If the city council approves these plans, Roebuck said he expects the reconstruction of the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant to go into full motion. However, reopening the facility is a slow process, to be completed by August of 2016, according to Roebuck.
 +
 +“It takes time and you have to show due diligence,​” Roebuck said.
 +
 +According to Dyer, even though a desalination plant could be producing fresh water by the fall of 2016, the facility alone cannot meet all the freshwater demands by Santa Barbara residents. Dyer said the city should not rely on the desalination plant should it reopen but rather on water conservation methods.
 +
 +“The desalination plant would really only take on about 22 percent of projected water demands,” Dyer said. “That’s just one piece of the pie. This figure takes into account a 20 percent cut in demand by the time of the plant’s reopening.”
 +
 +Dyer also said residents and local businesses will need to take action to conserve water despite the potential existence of a functioning desalination system.
 +“The city would still be relying on the community to reduce its water use amidst this drought,” Dyer said.
 +
 +A version of this story appeared on page 5 of the Thursday, ​ October 16, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
how_desalination_plant_ended_droughts.txt · Last modified: 2018/04/21 03:41 (external edit)