Perth desalination expansion to start immediately

The premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, announced on 1 August 2011 that work would begin immediately to double the capacity of the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, the second major desalination plant in the Perth region.

The expansion will provide 100 million m³ of drinking water a year, securing urgently needed new water for the Integrated Water Supply Scheme that supplies Perth and the Goldfields.

This decision was necessary because the Water Corporation, which supplies the area, can no longer rely on rainfall into its dams. Last year only 13 million m³ flowed into the dams, which is a fraction of the volume of water the corporation relies on from the dams to meet supply. Supply so far this year has been a third of that expected.

"Despite the welcome recent rain, long-term forecasts show the south-west corner of Western Australia will become even drier in the future," Barnett said. "It is important we act now to ensure security for the Integrated Water Supply Scheme (IWSS) that supplies drinking water to Perth, Mandurah, the Goldfields and towns along the way to Kalgoorlie-Boulder."

The first stage of the new plant near Binningup has been built over the past two and half years at a cost of Aus$ 955 million (US$ 1,054 million). It has just started supplying water into the IWSS ahead of schedule and within budget and will be fully commissioned before the end of the year.

The premier said the expansion would start delivering water into the IWSS by December 2012 and would cost Aus$ 450 million US$ 497 million). Of this, Aus$ 300 million (US$ 331 million) would be funded through the reprioritisation of capital already approved by the state government in its May budget for the Water Corporation's Aus$ 3.6 billion four-year capital works program.

"By making the decision to expand the plant now, we can take advantage of the already established, skilled workforce at the SSDP site,"he said. "We had to act decisively as a government and take direct action now. This decision is a major step in providing security to our water supplies even in the driest of years."

Water minister Bill Marmion said that when the expanded plant was completed, half of the water needed annually to supply Perth and surrounding areas would be supplied from climate-independent sources. Marmion said the state government would continue to investigate other supply solutions for future major water sources, including recycling through groundwater replenishment.

The design, construction and operation (for 25 years) of the Southern Seawater desalination plant was awarded to the Southern SeaWater Alliance (SSWA). The SSWA comprises of Tecnicas Reunidas, Valoriza Agua, AJ Lucas, WorleyParsons and the Water Corporation.

· Perth is the venue for the International Desalination Association's 2011 World Congress, which will be held during 4-9 September 2011.

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