30 March 2008

Desalination Would Cost Too Much

Melbourne has been under permanent water restrictions for nearly two years. With a rising population, the restrictions are unlikely to lift. Currently, water can be used freely for drinking, washing, cooking and other inside-the-house uses, but watering of gardens is severely restricted. The Victorian state government is now planning to introduce more water pipelines and a desalination plant to guarantee the future water supply.

The government's current plans are just a knee-jerk reaction. We may be low on water, but that's no reason to introduce a costly and inefficient desalination plant. Surely it would be more efficient to pipe recycled water for large industrial users such as our La Trobe Valley power plants.

Recycled water is used for drinking in other parts of the world, in fact I've drunk it myself while living in London. On the world's driest continent I think we can learn to drink recycled water, just as we have learned to sweep our driveways rather than hosing them down.

Comment posted by Michelle at the age blog PotteringBy


AC said...

As Australia is the driest continent, leveraging on desalination plants to produce water for human consumption will free natural water kept in reservoirs for nature's use. Further, the price of desalination will fall with technological improvement and economies of scale from using. Australia can lead the world in desalination usage and technology.

Yes recycled water can be added into our water supply, but it is a diminishing return, i.e. potable water fr recycling is less than waste water used for recycling. As such a new source of water has to found and what more than the abundant expanse of ocean water around Australia.

As most Australians already live around the coast, supply of drinkable water is already solved.

Michelle said...

Desalination is always going to be a big energy consumer.
Based on the government's own predictions for the desalination plant, replacing my current water supply with water from the desalination plant would increase my household electricity usage by over 25%. If Brumby is committed to reducing green house emissions he certainly has a strange way of doing it.

We all wish for something to solve Australia's water problems, but desalination isn't the solution.

AC said...

The one thing I see is that Australia has plenty of sunshine, that solves the solar energy bit of the energy equation. It has great waves around the coast which can be used for surfing as well as electrical energy generation. All these energy that can be generated from nature at next to no cost can be used to desalinate the water.

I do not see any future in continuing water restrictions, given that the Australian government is committed to population growth, which uses more water, and a federal effort to save the Murray river basin as well as the Murray river ecosystems. Water diverted from the Murray river has got to go back in there. The reservoirs serving Melbourne has water all diverted into the reservoirs and they are all less than 50% full. We can't wait for heaven to fill it up anymore, we have got to do it ourselves.

Yes electrical tariffs will go up if Brumby concentrates on the water problem without solving the power equation. This has to be a 2-pronged approach and it has to be simultaneous.

Frankly, bottled water in Australia is expensive. Bottled water in the United Arab Emirates is really cheap, so it is wierd that a middle eastern country can sell bottled water cheaper than Australia. It is not desalinated water, but water from an oasis.

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