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Seawater desalination

Increasingly Australian cities are using seawater desalination for their potable water supplies.  

Australian cities using desalinated seawater

Perth led the way with Perth Seawater Desalination Plant, located at Kwinana and now has another plant being built, the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant (SSDP), in the Shire of Harvey. The water supplied from these sites will be the next major water source for WA. For further information on these sites, visit the Water Corporation website.

The Gold Coast desalination project has been built at Tugun, Queensland. For more information visit the Water Secure website 

Adelaide will soon have desalinated seawater integrated into its urban potable supply. The SA Government website, Water for Good has information on the development of the desalination plant in the state. SA Water also has comprehensive information on the project development, media liaison and community consultation related to the implementation of the plant.

Sydney had desalinated seawater integrated into its urban potable supply in 2010. Sydney Water has further information on the development of a desalination plant at Kurnell, in the city's south. The plant will be powered by 100% renewable energy.

Melbourne will also soon integrate desalinated seawater into its potable supply. The plant at Wonthaggi in the south east Victoria region will supply up to 150 billion litres of water a year to Melbourne, Geelong and, via other connections, South Gippsland and Western Port towns. See the Victorian Government's Department of Sustainability and Environment website for further information. 

Techniques for desalinating seawater 

In each of these cases, reverse osmosis is the selected process for the desalting of seawater (Sea Water Reverse Osmosis, SWRO).

There are also a large number of smaller seawater desalination plants across Australia.

Seawater desalination offers many benefits over traditional water resources as it is not dependent on rainfall. However it comes at a high capital and high operating cost, and requires significant energy resources. There are also environmental management concerns about the disposal of the waste (brine) stream and potential impacts of this on local ecosystems. 

The introduction of seawater desalination plants is changing the landscape for water resources in Australia. The cost of water is increasing due to the investment in infrastructure, and this opens the opportunity for previously unfinancial recycling options to now compete in the water market. 

A key challenge for the water industry is to determine how this emerging water resource (desalination) will find its place along side more traditional water sources, and recycled water.  It is no ‘magic bullet’ solution, but has some benefits.  

Further information

For further information on desalinated seawater for potable water supplies, see the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities - Desalination resource pages.

International desalination projects

Please let us know if you are aware of any international desalination projects that we could feature here?

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