NCEDA’s CEO attacks east-coast desalination critics

As Perth, on Australia’s west coast, experiences its driest July on record, the CEO of the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA), Neil Palmer, has taken on the media and politicians on the country’s east coast over the recent spending on desalination.

While east-coast critics point to dams over 70% full and the mothballing of Sydney’s desalination plant, Palmer ripostes that Western Australia’s foresight in embracing desalination early – by building two plants that will eventually supply half of Perth’s water – has paid off.

Western Australia’s largest water utility, the Water Corporation, has stated that Perth would be in a situation of great concern about its public drinking water but for the Perth and Southern seawater desalination plants. The corporation has published graphical evidence of the dire state of its surface water supplies.

Palmer said the rest of Australia should take heed of the Water Corporation’s example in effectively drought-proofing Perth in light of extreme cyclical droughts and climate change forecast for the eastern seaboard in the years ahead.

“Investment in desalination is a long-term water-security insurance plan, so astute east-coast planners will know that, even though it’s raining now, forecast cycles of drought and climate change will push cities to the brink if desalination plants are not there for the dry years,” he warned.

“Internationally, other countries are looking at Western Australia’s use of desalination as a stand-out example of best practice, and using its plants as environmentally sustainable benchmarks as their energy requirements are offset by purchasing renewable energy,” Palmer continued. ‘Yet sadly on the east coast the focus around desal is short term, on current pricing rather than the long-term benefits – avoiding the fact that without desal, east coast cities will face water deficits in years to come.’