The Victorian Government is ordering 15GL of water from the Victorian Desalination Plant for 2017/18, the minimum amount set to ensure continued water security and better plant management.
The water order is based on advice from Melbourne Water in consultation with the three metropolitan water retailers. It will further restore Melbourne’s storage levels and provide an ongoing buffer against drought.
Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville said, “The plant was not built to be turned on just when our water supply reached critical levels. Instead its aim is to make sure that our water supply doesn’t fall to those levels in the first place.
“No one’s water bills will increase due to this water order. There will be no additional charges for this year’s water orders – or the minimum water orders of 15GL for the next three years – passed onto consumers.”
These orders will instead be funded from the sale of surplus Renewable Energy Certificates, which were previously purchased to offset power used by the plant with green energy, and were not fully utilised as no water orders were made until 2016.
Despite rainfall and inflows from the desalination plant, storages declined for 24 weeks in a row, between 25 November 2016 and 11 May 2017. Melbourne storages in May 2017 are 105GL lower than May 2015.
Melbourne’s water storages have never fully recovered from the millennium drought. For example, the Thomson Reservoir, which represents 60 per cent of Melbourne’s storage capacity, has not been full in 20 years.
The 50GL desalination order is starting to flow into water storages, meaning storage levels are 1.2 per cent higher than what they would have otherwise been.
The desalination plant is a key part of the grid – helping to avoid the social and economic costs of water restrictions on households, businesses and farmers.