Sydney Desalination Plant an option in flood mitigation debate

Australia’s opposition spokesman for water Chris Minns has floated a proposal to re-start Sydney Desalination Plant as an alternative to a contentious flood mitigation scheme, reports Blue Mountains Gazette.

The legislative assembly member for New South Wales is against raising the height of Warragamba Dam, a plan brought forward in response to severe floods in Queensland in 2011. 

Opponents of the scheme argue that raising the dam wall by 14 metres will destroy Aboriginal heritage sites, effect the beauty of the rugged Blue Mountains landscape and, at a cost of $670 million, is too expensive for Sydney’s taxpayers. Minns said that instead, flood protection could be provided by reducing the dam’s day-to-day maximum storage level, and supplementing supplies with desalinated water.

Sydney Desalination Plant began supplying desalinated water in January 2010, and was brought into care and maintenance mode in July 2012 when dam storage levels reached 90 per cent.

Lake Burragorang, which is formed by the dam, has capacity of 2,000 million cubes, and supplies more than 80 per cent of water to 3.7 million people in Sydney and the Lower Blue Mountains.

The New South Wales government is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on its flood mitigation proposals.

The Sydney Desalination Plant is operated by Veolia Water Australia, and jointly owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, The Infrastructure Fund (TIF), and Utilities Trust of Australia (UTA). The TIF and UTA shares are managed by Hastings Funds Management.