Dam plan deserves attention: Agritech

24 Mar, 2004 10:00 PM
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A PERTH-BASED consortium says its proposal to desalinate 45 gigalitres of water from the Wellington dam each year to boost the Perth water supply has not been taken seriously by the Water Corporation.

Agritech Hydropower project coordinator Peter Coyne said that after submitting plans to the Water Corporation last year, he was told by a technical committee that it was not in the best interests of the corporation.

"They said they would not spend one cent on either the Wellington Dam or the Collie catchment because it was not in their commercial interest to do so," he said.

Mr Coyne said the Wellington dam project would not cost the State Government one cent to build compared to the $370m it would cost to pump water from the South Yarragadee aquifer or $350m to build a 45gL desalination plant at Kwinana.

He said the Agritech proposal would deliver water to the Perth grid at Harvey for 60c a kilolitre, which compared to 85-90c/kL for Yarragadee and $1.20/kL for desalination at Kwinana.

"The government does not have to put its hands in its pockets for desalination at Kwinana or Yarragadee and we use resources that are wasted," he said.

He said salinity of the Wellington dam water would be reduced from 1500 parts per million of sale to 50ppm, making it the freshest water in Australia.

Mr Coyne said a slug of saline water formed at the bottom of the Wellington Dam and the Water Corporation released 45gl to the sea each year.

The dam receives an annual inflow of about 100gL and holds 186gL. Irrigated agriculture has a 68gL allocation.

Under the Agritech proposal, water would be gravity fed from the dam to a reverse osmosis desalination plant at the bottom of Darling Scarp at Brunswick Junction.

Mr Coyne said the 165-metre head pressure would not only drive the reverse osmosis desalination process but be able to pump it to Harvey without the need for additional system pumps and carbon dioxide emissions.

He said energy requirements of system pumps were usually the most significant portion of operating large reverse osmosis plants.

Mr Coyne also did not believe State Government had the power to a drive a proposed 45gL reverse osmosis plant at Kwinana, which meant the politically unpopular Yarragadee proposal could still be an option.

Water Corporation media coordinator Phil Kneebone said the corporation met with Agritech in October last year and requested more detail.

³He has not got back to us,² he said.

³Our only real knowledge of the Agritech proposal is in very general terms.

³We are still not in a position to establish about the viability of the proposal.²

Mr Kneebone said the Water Corporation did spend money on the Collie catchment because it was a catchment most likely to recover from salinity.

He said Agritech still did not have a water allocation from the Wellington Dam and doubted it would receive environmental permission to put a pipeline through the Brunswick Valley.

Water recreation activities on Wellington Dam would also have to stop if the water was used for drinking water.

The Water Corporation has received approval to operate a 30gL desalination plant at Kwinana but a subsequent request to increase capacity to 45gL has not yet been approved.

The corporation¹s preferred option is to extract 45gL from the South Yarragadee aquifer.

But this is considered a politically risky move for government, especially in an election year.

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