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New desalination plant set to bolster water security in Perth

The Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant (ASDP) is set to become Perth’s next major, climate-resilient water source, with delivery of the world-class facility on track to commence in mid-2024.

In November last year, the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water approved the plant, which will have the capacity to produce 100 billion litres of water per year, securing potable supplies for millions of Western Australians.

In December, the Western Australian Government committed $2.8 billion to build the new asset, a project that will be facilitated by Water Corporation under strict conditions regarding the delivery and operation of the plant.

Those conditions include ensuring net-zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions during construction and operation, as well as measures to procure the renewable energy required to meet the plant's total annual energy needs.

Water Minister Simone McGurk said progress on sustainable, climate-independent water sources is critical to overcoming the increasing impacts of climate change.

"Over the coming months, the site of Perth's next major water source will begin to take shape, marking the early stages of this significant project for our growing city,” she said.

"We're feeling the effects of climate change right now – it doesn't rain in Perth like it once did. Where we used to receive an average 420 billion litres of rainfall into Perth dams annually, today it is less than 70 billion litres.

"[We have] acted to ensure our water supply network is more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

"This project has been carefully designed to integrate into the surrounding landscape and, importantly, will have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions during construction and throughout operation."

Environment Minister Reece Whitby said water security in the face of climate change is a growing challenge globally: “However, through prudent investment and robust planning we're ensuring the sustainability of our state's most valuable resource now and long into the future”.

"I'm confident Water Corporation will deliver the Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant safely and sustainably, with minimal disturbance and in line with all environmental conditions,” he said.

Partnering up

Site works began at the location for the plant in December, and in January this year McGurk announced a consortium of Acciona Agua Australia and Jacobs Group Australia as the preferred proponent to design, build and operate the future asset.

"The Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant and associated projects are a significant investment in the future water security for millions of people across Perth and regional areas,” McGurk said.

"With siteworks well underway, and now the announcement of the preferred proponent, we're on track for construction to begin mid-2024.

"Western Australia was the first state to introduce large-scale desalination, and this is a key milestone in the delivery of our next climate-resilient water source."

Subject to further negotiations, the companies will form an alliance – the Northern Water Partnership – ahead of construction beginning in mid-2024.

Acciona Agua Australia brings considerable experience in the delivery and operation of drinking water infrastructure, including as part of the consortium that built and now operates the Adelaide Seawater Desalination Plant.

Jacobs has similar expertise, having partnered with Water Corporation to deliver vital water supply and wastewater projects across Western Australia. Pending successful negotiations, an alliance contract is expected to be awarded in March 2024.

Delivering water security

The ASDP will be delivered in two 50 billion-litre-a-year stages, with first water expected to be available by 2028.

The third of its kind in Western Australia, the new plant will be built adjacent to an existing wastewater treatment plant on land that is to become known as the Alkimos Water Precinct.

Georgiou Group has been awarded a $29.8 million contract to prepare the site for construction, with early works including sinking of the site into the landscape and extending a large, vegetated sand dune to shield the plant from view and create a noise buffer.

As well as having net-zero greenhouse gas emissions during construction and operation, the new asset will also allow Water Corporation to reduce its groundwater allocation by 30 billion litres a year – helping to preserve healthy wetlands, parks, forests and public open spaces.

Premier Roger Cook said beginning works on the site will mark a significant milestone for water security in Western Australia.

"[Western Australia] continues to be a world leader in the delivery of climate-resilient water sources,” he said.

"The Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant will help to secure long-term drinking water, support our economy, reduce dependence on groundwater, and meet the needs of our state's growing population.

"[Our] $2.8 billion investment can be made thanks to our responsible budget management, which will help to secure not only Perth's water supply but the future of those who will call our state home for many years to come."

Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant concept illustration showing the plant
incorporated into the natural dune system.