Water Week

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Melbourne’s desalination: environmental vandalism and economic madness: cheaper to pipe water 350k from Tasmania Lake Margaret, across Bass Strait

Posted by waterweek on 26 September 2007

Brumby has inherited one of the most extraordinary decisions of the Bracks government – to invest about $3 billion in a desalination plant in Wonthaggi and another $1 billion to pipe water over the Great Divide into the Melbourne reticulation system, reported The Age, (2/8/2007, p.15).

The desalination plant is designed to produce 250 gigalitres a year and the pipe to have a capacity of 90 gigalitres a year. Melbourne’s water consumption is about 450 gigalitres a year, so the pipeline option alone would add 20 per cent to Melbourne’s water supply and the desalination plant would add another 50 per cent to Melbourne’s water supply.

Economic madness at six times the cost: ” Most water experts condemn the desalination plant as environmental vandalism and economic madness. The cost of desalinated water would be six times the cost of the most economical alternatives and desalination would spew some 945,000 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – equal to putting another 240,000 cars onto Melbourne’s roads. According to Paul Austin (The Age, 12/07) Steve Bracks approved both water projects because otherwise he would have to disappoint either former environment minister John Thwaites (who was committed to the desalination plant because it would involve the production of more water) or John Brumby (who was committed to pumping water over the Divide to connect with Melbourne Water). ”

Water pipe under Bass Strait cheaper: A better and cheaper alternative for Melbourne is to pipe water surplus to Tasmania’s needs from Lake Margaret and other lakes in the north-west of Tasmania across Bass Strait to Melbourne, Geelong and even Ballarat. The cost would be comparable to existing supplies because the additions would be delivered by gravity rather than pumping.

350-kilometre long underwater pipe; According to Melbourne engineer Geoff Croker, Lake Margaret is 600 metres above sea level compared with Ballarat’s 460 metres. Croker had sketched out a proposal that would involve the building of a pipeline with a 350-kilometre long underwater section, which would cost between $300 million and $500 million if sensibly planned, with the pipes made at both ends and the project financed by government borrowings. Croker, who has experience designing pipe sizing for the flow of solids and water for many of the former CRA’s largest mines, including Bougainville Copper, points out his scheme is technically simple.

Other examples:

• 305-kilometre, New Zealand-built gas pipeline’

• 290-kilometre BassLink electricity connection across Bass Strait

• 1200-kilometre undersea gas pipeline is near completion across the North Sea connecting Norway and Britain at depths up to 900 metres on a rugged ocean floor, requiring careful preparation by remote-control robot digging machines.

Easy-peasy pipeline: “By comparison the Bass Strait has a flat, sandy bottom with a maximum depth of 70 metres. The pipe could be laid within two years compared with six to seven years for the construction of a desalination plant.

Two metres a year of rain: Croker points out that a long-term rainfall study by the CSIRO concludes that average rainfall in north-west Tasmania, already two metres a year, is likely to increase at the expense of mainland rainfall. Croker sent copies of his proposal to the relevant Victorian ministers and shadow ministers, without considered response.

Tasmania policy allows water export: The only reply has been from Tasmanian Minister for Water David Llewellyn, who expressed interest in the project. He wrote that the Government had a policy covering the export of surplus water in return for the payment of a royalty by the end user.

The Age, 2/8/2007, p. 15

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One Response to “Melbourne’s desalination: environmental vandalism and economic madness: cheaper to pipe water 350k from Tasmania Lake Margaret, across Bass Strait”

  1. Liz said

    Liz, Look at the cost NSW is considering for this pipeline compared to our waterbag costs to move the same amount of water. This article might be of help to you as a comparison for selling your waterbag idea. We can use the same loading locations as proposed for this pipeline. And as I promised, you and SA have first exclusive rights to our technology for use in Tasmania.
    Maybe this information can get your fellow politicians to move ahead to support our demonstration voyage plans. Terry

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