Zero purchase for Melbourne desalination water next year

The government of the Australian state of Victoria has placed its first order for water from the Melbourne desalination plant at Wonthaggi - for zero cubic metres for the next financial year.

Water minister Peter Walsh said on 2 April 2012 that Melbourne's water storages were at 64.8%, thanks to good rainfall and water-saving efforts.

"Melbourne's dams are holding almost 1.2 million m³ and we are coming into the winter/spring filling season with wet catchments," Walsh said. "It's also clear that the plant will not be fully completed by the original completion date of 30 June 2012."

Walsh added that the AquaSure consortium had advised that the seawater reverse-osmosis plant was not expected to be fully completed and have passed all reliability tests until February 2013, well into the financial year, although the plant will produce water until reliability testing is complete.

Under the contract negotiated by the previous administration, Melbourne water users would be required to pay Aus$ 654 million (US$ 677 million) in the 2012-13 financial year if the project had been completed by 30 June 2012, Walsh said. Under the contract, each year by 1 April, the government must place a water order of either 0 m³, 50,000 m³, 75,000 m³, 100,000 m³, 125,000 m³ or 150,000 m³ for the coming financial year.

"Given we don't need the water, and we are already contractually obliged to pay for water produced during commissioning, we believe the most responsible course of action is to save this money," said Walsh.

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