Australian government to fund desalination projects

Guidelines for the Australian government’s plan to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, including desalination, to help cities and towns meet future demand for water were published on 7 December 2008 by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Minister for Climate Change & Water, Senator Penny Wong.

Funds available under the government’s Aus$1 billion (US$ 650 million) National Urban Water & Desalination Plan announced in this year’s budget will support the building of desalination plants and recycling and stormwater harvesting infrastructure in urban areas with populations of more than 50,000 people.

Senator Wong said the government was working to secure water supplies for all Australians with its long-term Aus$ 12.9 billion (US$ 8.36 billion) plan, Water for the Future.

“The situation in the Murray-Darling basin – where there have been 38 consecutive months of record low inflows – makes clear that we have to secure new water supplies that rely less on rain,” she stated. “Whereas the previous government thought city water supplies was a problem for the states, the Rudd government is stepping up to the plate to provide assistance for state governments that are diversifying their water supplies.”

Private organisations, water utilities, and state, territory and local governments are being invited to apply for funding. Successful organisations will receive either 10% of the total cost of the project or $100 million, depending on which is the lesser amount. Access to funding is conditional on state and territory governments achieving water reforms agreed through the Council of Australian Governments.

There will be a one-month consultation period on the draft legislation and explanatory information to support the National Urban Water and Desalination Plan.

Proposals for funding from the National Urban Water and Desalination Plan must be received by 30 June 2009. Guidelines will be available from from 8 December 2008.