Hunter Water has initiated plans to build a temporary desalination plant at Belmont in NSW, as part of an insurance policy.
The policy was proposed in the case of unprecedented drought, where Hunter Water would construct the plant if water storage levels dropped to 35 per cent and decommission it when storage levels rise about 50 per cent.
The utility has moved to obtain planning approvals for the plant as a last resort in a suite of water security measures included in the NSW Government’s Lower Hunter Water Plan.
Hunter Water Chief Investment Officer Darren Cleary told the Herald
that being prepared for drought requires having approvals in place for the worst case scenarios.
“The Lower Hunter Water Plan is a 20-year water security blueprint for the Hunter which determined that while our water storages are sufficient for now, we need to be prepared for extreme drought conditions,” Cleary said.
“Having planning approvals on the shelf and ready to go for a temporary desalination plant is an insurance policy in the event a catastrophic drought hit the Hunter.”
Construction of the plant will only come after all other water-saving measures have been exhausted, including increased recycling, stormwater harvesting and stringent water restrictions.
“Although the odds of switching on the plant are in the order of 10,000 to one, we won’t take the chance of running out of water because our planning approvals were not in place. Gaining approvals now means we’re ready for worst,” Cleary said.
Hunter Water Managing Director Jim Bentley said the temporary plant will be an emergency measure and is not considered to be part of the utility’s long-term water resource planning.
“While water demand in the Hunter went down over the last 30 years due to reduced industrial use and water-wise behaviours, we’re at the point with our growing population where if we keep going as we are, we’ll need a new water source in 20 years’ time,” Bentley said.
“Hunter Water is working to delay the need for the next water source by saving water in our own network.”
Hunter Water will commence community consultation in early 2018.
If you’d like to learn more about seawater desalination, check out the Ozwater’18 technical program here.