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 SA: desal plant out of mothballs for farmers

08.11.19. Gosh! Tim Flannery will be smugly saying, “I told you so!” The virtually mothballed Adelaide desalination plant will make drinking water for Adelaide and the Murray flow can then be used by the farmers. The down side makes for very expensive water via very expensive electricity, a commodity already in short supply in SA. “The desal plant’s electricity bill was $13.5 million for the 2016/17 financial year, despite it producing only 2 per cent of the state’s water supply.” And what was that other problem? Oh yes, major power outages that led to expensive court cases. But they’ve got a battery now, don’t they? And some diesel generators too!
Adelaide’s little-used desalination plant will be cranked up as part of a deal to provide relief to drought-ravaged farmers in the eastern states. The bargain between State and Federal Governments will provide up to 100 billion litres of water for farmers to grow fodder, silage, and pasture — enough to produce 120,000 tonnes of feed for animals. 

Source: ABC

How will the revival of Adelaide’s desalination plant help drought-stricken farmers?

So how will the deal work?
The one-off deal negotiated between the two governments will see the desalination plant increase production to provide 40 gigalitres — 40 billion litres — of water this financial year and will flow into Adelaide’s drinking water supply, which is supplemented by water from the Murray River.
The decision to turn on the desal plant means an equivalent volume of water can be returned to the river and used for the upstream drought relief.
All going well, the desalination plant will provide a further 60 billion litres in 2020-21.
As part of the deal, the Federal Government will also spend $10 million on a “Drought Resilience Fund” for South Australian farmers.
What is the desalination plant doing now?
The decision to build the desalination plant came in 2007, when Adelaide’s drinking water supply was under threat at the height of the Millennium Drought.
It was originally designed to provide up to 50 gigalitres of water a year, but a deal between former SA premier Mike Rann’s government and Kevin Rudd doubled its output to 100 gigalitres, taking the total cost of the facility to $1.8 billion dollars.
Since its opening in 2011, the plant has produced just 148 gigalitres in total.
In fact, it switches off during the wettest months, and spends most of the year in “minimum production mode”, providing no more than 8 gigalitres of water to Adelaide each year.
So, why isn’t it being used now?
Water is still flowing down the Murray. And desalinated water is far more expensive than river water.
In fact, the desal plant’s electricity bill was $13.5 million for the 2016/17 financial year, despite it producing only 2 per cent of the state’s water supply.
As drought conditions have worsened, the South Australian Government has faced increasing pressure to turn the desalination plant on.
Last year, it agreed to study a proposal to do just that, as part of a separate deal to secure extra water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
It’s expensive, who pays?
Labor’s Susan Close questioned the impact it could have in the event of a dry summer and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said it was setting a “dangerous precedent” and the cost burden could fall to SA.
However, the Federal Government has agreed to meet all costs associated with increased use of the desalination plant and will provide the extra water to farmers at less than market rates.
The SA Government says there will be no adverse impact on South Australia’s water security or water prices.
Once the first 40 gigalitres of desalinated water is delivered, a review will be conducted to assess its effectiveness, water availability in the basin, and South Australia’s water security and costs.
The SA Government says the second tranche of water is dependent on that review.
“South Australia survived some of the most extreme effects of the Millennium Drought and fully understand the terrible impacts that drought has on farmers, families, regional communities and the nation,” SA Premier Steven Marshall said.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Muphin 08/11/2019, 5:38 am

    They gunna need a bigger battery!!!!

  • DT 08/11/2019, 6:49 am

    If only the Lib-Nat Coalition plan to build 100 new dams around and across Australia had been progressed, including extending the WA Ord River Irrigation Area through the NT and NQ.

    And earlier that the Bradfield Scheme had been implemented.

    It is difficult to be a nation building government when taking orders from foreigners at the United Nations based on treaties signed by politicians from the past who are no longer concerned about winning votes, and when responsibilities between Commonwealth and States are complicated by constitutional laws and opposite sides of politics unwilling to cooperate.

    • Penguinite 08/11/2019, 7:35 am

      “If only” is the plaintive cry that will for ever echo down the century’s.

  • lorraine 08/11/2019, 7:40 am

    we are living with fools, and the fools are in charge

  • Penguinite 08/11/2019, 7:52 am

    More political sleight of hand! Same as the drought relief scheme announced yesterday. Indebted farmers don’t want more debt! They need water but our great federal/state leaders are unable to reach a consensus that would allow construction of dams. These interest free loans, for two years, will come to fruition just prior to the next election. Which party will be the first to promote some sort of concession to forgive the loans? If BS was music this lot would be a brass band!

    • Pensioner Pete 08/11/2019, 9:30 am

      This whole ‘loans’ deal is nothing but smoke and mirrors, the paperwork involved will require a triple trailer multi-deck road train to carry it all, the banks will not relinquish their loans as the banks are already rubbing their hands together with glee in readiness for foreclosures, essentially, the government is simply not interested in making the decisions necessary to keep the rural industry afloat.

      It is so bloody simple, build dams and pipelines – e.g., the Bradfield Scheme for starters and create a rural bank owned by the people to take over the commercial bank loans of the rural sector, just for starters. The construction of the Bradfield Scheme will provide employment for thousands, the Rural Bank will ensure the man on the land, remains the man on the land, the benefits will flow into the economy Australia wide from day one.

      • OPA 08/11/2019, 11:17 am

        But PP, Greta would never approve!

  • JG 08/11/2019, 11:20 am

    I believe, if people listen, the farmers need money now to keep afloat until the drought breaks. So I support the decision but each application should be assessed on how much liability they can carry into the future. So if $2million on offer they may only need/carry $100k or decide if farm marginal to get out.
    Only the farmers know not city dweller who have their hearts in the right place but need to consider the farmers view not just the squeeky wheels.
    At times it seems that it is a contest about who cares the most!
    To cry for taxpayer handouts gives everyone a good feeling but do the farmers what to be seen as a charity.

  • Disgruntled 08/11/2019, 12:54 pm

    AND!! the desal plant with expensive water got with scarce electricity gets going. AND!! huge quantities of water goes happily to the river mouth to be salted up and then returned to the desal plant to be UNsalted. How bloody stupid is that????
    And what about the cost? The poor farmers are getting screwed again. {and again and again}. This countrys so called leaders seem to have lost the plot. The “environment” really does need to lighten up a bit, but it will not. too many leftie greenie advisory bureaucrats as well as pollies to contend with eh.

    Senator Patrick has also completely lost the plot with his claim on Murray’s show on Sky last night that all of the refugees brought to Australia by the bill of that foolish Kerryn Phelps have been returned. Totally false, not a single one has returned and will never be able to be sent back legally! This dill doesn’t have a clue, and he votes too. Sometimes, {well all the time} I am amazed how the country can run with people like this making decisions. If he can get this so wrong, what about everything else that he votes on?

    Hey OPA, as far as I am concerned, Greta can go and copulate with herself and shut the eff up.

  • Cliff 08/11/2019, 5:25 pm

    Question: wouldn’t be cheaper – and use a LOT less electricity – to use the Murray river water flowing past the land requiring it for irrigation and pump sea water upstream for however many miles it needs to be pumped upstream to give that (we are told) ‘vital’ flush of theMurray River’s mouth at Lake Alexandra?

    That would involve a sort of ‘Snowy Scheme Mark 2’ without the uphill factor, (or very much uphill), wouldn’t it? Surely even Malcolm Mansion would have to approve of that.

  • Rubyred 09/11/2019, 12:36 am

    I lived near the Murray river for many years at Swan Hill Cliff and I also wonder how much power will be needed to send water back upstream.
    It sure was almost impossible to swim upstream.

    What is wrong with using the water running past the farming land?
    This reminds me of “Yes Minister” or is it because the investors who bought the water rights won’t allow it unless they get paid the full amount they want!

  • pattoh 09/11/2019, 4:36 am

    Only proves just how POWERFUL that political wind power can be.
    [ Bifartison of course]

    No doubt it will magically blow in a Cashless Econonomy on cue soon too.

    I just hope that bubble of disconnect & conceit that contains the Canberra politicians & bureaucrats meets Australian Standards for Profylactics , otherwise it could get messy………………..

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