South Australia’s future water security

South Australia’s future water security by Mark Aldridge Independent

Since the early 1970’s water storage was somewhat put on the back burner, as governments eyes were solely on the shiny dollar, putting economic growth above essential services.

With no eggs in the storage basket, it seemed the Murray was the cheapest solution, but then the population started to out grow available resources, pushing water prices through the roof, and causing a major crisis in available resources.

Consecutive governments were caught with their pants down, when the drought came, they had done nothing since the 1970’s and the Murray could no longer sustain their short sightedness, and with election terms their ideal of long term vision, desalination seemed the easy way out.

“The almighty spin and money grab relating to water has clouded the way forward, leaving us with an inept Labor government throwing money at the big end of town at the expense of reliable and affordable water for not only personal and business use, but more so surety of our food bowl” Mark said.

The savior was sold over a couple of elections “Desalination” the location itself had major issues, the environmental impact less than ideal, and the long term costs staggering, the path to where all the money ends up, paints an interesting over all picture.

The alternatives were many, from grand cross-country piping schemes, to the simple raising of water storage levels, but the stand out choice for SA from my studies was and is storm water recycling and aquifer storage.

Consider the actual picture alone, with out the many other factors, for which sustainability and long term costs will further back my preferred ideal. Scattered wet lands through out the state or the ugly picture of a massive plant sucking our dwindling power supplies.

Salisbury City already has a world leading program to collect, cleanse and store storm water, it is economical, environmentally friendly, helps restore native habitat, and looks great to boot.

Salisbury alone has a rainfall/storm water quota of around 33 GL, the state in total has in excess of 350 GL of storm water available for capture and our underground storage is quoted at around 175 GL, more than enough to completely water proof the state.

Colin Pitman once offered to waterproof South Australia, only to meet with the usual ignorance of our Labor government, it was a better option for the environment, employment and over all costing, including the long-term overheads of running a desalination plant.

Salisbury Council has put about $38 million into its wetlands, and revenue is estimated at $15 million to $20 million a year. But that is only the beginning, so the storm water can not only pay for itself, it would ensure a lower cost resource for all South Australian, something I sincerely doubt will be bragged by the new desalination plant with the overheads of power alone.

The Desalination plant faced many problems before it even made the planning stages, environmentalists exposed the danger of not only the process but the location, the costs alone blew out to over 1.83 Billion, the completion date behind schedule, work place safety failed, and even this being the fact, the Rann Labor government awarded the builders very handsome (50 million bonus).

The claimed output was to be 50 GL, and maximum output was expanded at the last minute to around 100 GL, which has yet to be proven, the costs do not end there, a 20 year power supply contract was signed at $130 million per year.

“It is a financially risky business, once you build a plant of this nature, there’s the imperative to operate them, sometimes a contractual imperative to operate them flat-out.” Are the words of the leading experts, and this is a sad fact when looking at the long-term costs, which we all know are passed on to we the consumers.

One litre of purified seawater can cost four times to source than dam water, so the desal plant is going to cost us dearly compared to the ideal of storm water recycling, let alone if the government had simply continued to increase dam storage beyond the 70’s when the last expansion took place.

“The life spans of some of these plants certainly is not as long as building a dam, or some of the other recycling options, so it’s a costly way of providing water,” with more long term pain than gain, says Mark

Once a plant is built, electricity makes up 60 per cent of running costs, according to the National Water Commission. Even taking all costs into account – from construction to ongoing maintenance – energy still accounts for a quarter of the total expenditure. So allowing in SA a cost of 130 million and rising for power alone, the yearly costs could stretch to 300 million, yet the Salisbury wet lands scheme if adopted on a state wide basis, would have reduced that cost 4 fold, and kept not only the over all budget down, but the end costs to all users.

Colin Pitman’s scheme was quoted at a statewide cost of around 1.4 billion, it would have saved us the huge burden of the power costs and would have been an environmental blessing to the state as a whole, let alone the benefits for our habitat restoration and the overall presentation as a state.

The fact is, regardless of where the power for desalination is sourced, it still means we will have to up the level of supposed Co2 emissions, again attracting a further huge cost in the soon to be introduced federal Labor carbon tax, so rising costs will blow out to simply unacceptable levels, my estimates of around 16% increase in running costs from a carbon tax by 2104 make for a massive burden on the South Australian tax payer, or should I say water users.

“It is mind boggling that a scheme like that of wetlands what would absorb Co2 would be pushed aside for one that emits more”, says Mark

Aquifers can store large quantities of water without losses from evaporation and with reduced risk of contamination, both of which are problems associated with surface water storage areas such as reservoirs and dams, water brought up to drinking standards can be added to existing infrastructure, so can easily be made available to every home and business, unlike the purple piped related sewerage water, or the added infrastructure required by desalination.

It is not too late for the government to adopt such measures for the state, even if gradually introduced, the desalination plant will not last for ever, and droughts are some times followed by flooding rains, so why not top up the storage facilities offered up to us by mother nature herself.

With water, power and food production being the most important necessities, let alone our ailing environment, and the fact our long-term future extends way beyond the next election, why not embrace the Ideal of storm water recycling and Aquifer storage now, even if it takes a few years, if population growth continues, so will our need for clean water, affordable power and locally grown produce.

Mark M Aldridge

Independent for Ramsay

08 82847482 / 0403379500


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One Response to “South Australia’s future water security”

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