The 4350water Blog highlights some of the issues relating to proposals for potable reuse in Toowoomba and South East Qld. 4350water blog looks at related political issues as well.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Recycled water failures sees Werribee farmers push for desal plant ...

Growing support for Werribee desal plant

25 February 2009

A second desalination plant could be built close to Melbourne in a bid to solve a looming crisis at one of Australia's most important food production zones.

The push to build another desalination plant is designed to save the Werribee Irrigation District, which is estimated to supply close to half Australia's vegetables yet is facing a bleak future under present water arrangements.

Crops at Werribee have been grown in recycled water from the nearby sewage treatment plant for almost four years, but Government failure to ensure the quality of that water has led to fears the district could be destroyed for farming within a decade.

Salinity levels in the recycled water have regularly been double the maximum promised by the State Government when it urged market gardeners onto the recycled water scheme in 2004.

"Within 10 years, I think if it (the soil) wasn't buggered, we would be finding it extremely difficult," said Werribee farmer Carmelo Santamaria.

The Government is now locked in negotiations with water authorities, the local council and market gardeners in a bid to solve the crisis and preserve several hundred local businesses.

Farmers have pushed for a desalination plant attached to the treatment plant to purify the water, and despite concerns from Melbourne Water that such a solution would be too costly, the farmers have found support from the local council, Wyndham City.

The council has argued it could be more affordable if multiple users of the water were found in Melbourne's west.

In a letter to a Victorian Parliament inquiry, Wyndham chief executive Peter Marshall argued that a new desal plant could be more affordable if multiple uses for the water were found.

In particular, he suggested the plant could help parched sportsgrounds in Melbourne's west.

The proposed plant would not supply drinking water, but would be safe for all other non-consumptive uses.

The water authority charged with evaluating the future options at Werribee — Southern Rural Water — confirmed this week that desalination had not been ruled out and would be considered in a major options analysis now under way.

Despite its caution over costs, Melbourne Water has also refused to rule out desalination.

The four-year arrangement to use the recycled water will expire on June 30, yet SRW has only recently started an investigation into the best option for continued farming at Werribee.

The delay means that an extension of the deal — which farmers fear is ruining their soil — is likely to be announced for a further two years.

If desalination were adopted, it would be the second major example of such technology in Victoria, after the Labor Government controversially opted to build a desalination plant at Wonthaggi to help boost Melbourne's drinking water supplies.

Water Minister Tim Holding indicated that a solution to Werribee's woes was still a long way from being found.

"They are complex issues and they depend on a lot of different factors, on which drought has had a fairly dramatic impact," he said.

See - The Age - Support for desal plant.


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