Follow WA’s drought-proofing example, urges national desal expert

Posted on 31 July 2012

Australia’s east coast urban planners and state governments need to hold their nerve on using major seawater desalination plants for effective drought-proofing and not give in to short term politics and vocal minorities.

National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australian CEO Neil Palmer says Western Australia’s foresight in embracing desalination early by building two plants to eventually supply half of Perth’s water has paid off.

Perth has just experienced its driest July since records began, with dams only receiving 5.4 billion litres of inflow this year; the same amount of water Perth uses in five hot summer’s days.

Western Australia’s largest water utility, the Water Corporation, has stated that Perth would be in a very concerning situation with its public drinking water if not for the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant and Southern Seawater Desalination Plant.

Its strategic investment in these desalination plants has also saved Perth facing the harsh water restrictions experienced in east coast cities.

Mr Palmer said the rest of Australia should take heed of the Water Corporation’s example in effectively drought-proofing Perth in light of extreme cyclical droughts and climate change forecast for the eastern seaboard in the years ahead.

“Investment in desalination is a long term water security insurance plan, so astute east coast planners will know that even though it’s raining now, forecast cycles of drought and climate change will push cities to the brink if desal plants are not there for the dry years.”

Mr Palmer said the Centre was fast-tracking improvements in desalination technology with 44 national research projects worth $41 million thanks to $20 million funding over five years from the Australian Government’s Water for the Future Initiative, with more than 50 generous industry partners.

Use of renewable energy includes solar and geothermal-powered desalination, and the use of waste heat from mining processes.

“Internationally, other countries are looking at Western Australia’s use of desalination as a stand-out example of best practice, and using its plants as environmentally sustainable benchmarks as their energy requirements are offset by purchasing renewable energy.

“Yet sadly on the east coast the focus around desal is short term, on current pricing rather than the long term benefits – avoiding the fact that without desal, east coast cities will face water deficits in years to come.

“We live in a largely arid nation where total reliance on rainfall in major cities is no longer an option and yet we still expect to be able to turn on our taps and have cheap, clean and safe water miraculously appear – but without desalination, those days are over.”

Mr Palmer is available for interview on 0417 996 126.
For more information on NCEDA see desalination.edu.au.
Follow on Twitter: @DiscoverDesal
Media contact: Tanyia Maxted, Communications Consultant: 0438 645 839.

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