Auditor-General's Report puts spotlight on Adelaide desalination plant

Posted 29 November 2017

Adelaide desalination plant
Questions regarding the financial viability of Adelaide’s desalination plant have arisen once again following the release of the 2017 Auditor-General's Report. It revealed that the electricity consumption for the plant costs $13.5 million, despite producing only two per cent of the state’s water supply. 

Figures show the plant, at Port Stanvac, has consumed $120 million in electricity since it began operating, but also reflected an annual decrease in operational costs in the past five years. 

The report identified that in 2013-14, the expenditure for operational power was $42 million, and decreased to $22 million in 2014-15, $17 million in 2015-16 and to $13.5 million in 2016-17.

SA Water has run the desalination plant at 10 per cent capacity, since it was built following the Millennium Drought, in order to keep it in functioning condition and has produced a total of 138GL since it began running. 

Regardless of cost reductions, Opposition Environment spokesperson David Spiers told ABC Online that the plant was a “huge financial burden” on the state’s taxpayers.

"Adelaide's desalination plant has been shown to be double the size that it ever needed to be," he said.

"The Productivity Commission showed that a couple of years ago. It's barely running yet costing tens of millions of dollars."

SA Water Minister Ian Hunter said the opposition’s protest is unfounded, considering the reduction in costs clearly outlined in the report. 

"I don't know where the Liberals got their figures from. If you actually look at the Auditor-General's report, it will tell you the costs for electricity [at the desalination plant] have been falling in recent years," Hunter said.
 
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Technical Paper: Planning, design, construction and operation of the Adelaide Desalination Plant