Water Week

EWN Publishing

Seawater desalination costs over three Australian cities could vary from AUD $1.15 to $3.00 a cubic metre of product water (USD $0.95- 2.50)

Posted by waterweek on 27 September 2007

Consultants to the Australian Prime Minister on water supply options for Australian cities noted that low cost water supply options depended on “favourable locations and situations” for the options, wrote the WWF’s Phil Dickie.

Seawater desalination costs variable and high: “Seawater desalination costs over three Australian cities accordingly could vary from AUD $1.15 to $3.00 a cubic metre of product water (USD $0.95- 2.50). Options with a noticeably lower mid-point in their range included demand management, irrigation water purchases, stormwater re-use, groundwater extraction and dams. Noticeably more expensive options were to augment supply through household rainwater tanks and long distance pipelines.”

Water supply energy content analysed: “The Pacific Institute’s analysis of desalination in California analysed the energy content of competing water supplies,” Dickie wrote. “Seawater desalination was the most energy intensive of water sources in San Diego county, a multiple of 1.3 times the energy intensity of water sourced from the State water grid, twice that of the Colorado River Aqueduct, four times that of brackish water desalination and eight times as energy intensive as groundwater or reclaiming waste water.”

Subsidy proposal opposed to reflect true costs: According to Dickie: “Energy costs are increasingly reflective of overall water costs. The US Desalination Coalition (now the New Water Supply Coalition, a lobby composed of US municipal authorities), proposed a 2005 bill for qualified desalination facilities to be eligible for payments of $0.62 for every thousand gallons of freshwater produced for the initial ten years of a project’s operation. The US Congressional Budget Office opposed the subsidy, on the basis that the real issue was that payments for water by US consumers rarely reflected supply costs and additional subsidies ‘would compound the distortion of price signals. An alternative means of improving the viability of desalination would be to allow prices charged to water users and received by water producers in general to more fully reflect the cost of supply’.”

Reference: Phil Dickie, WWF for a living planet, ‘Making Water – Desalination option or distraction for a thirsty world?’, June 2007.

Erisk Net, 23/9/2007

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