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Incorporating the IDA Desalination Plants Inventory
Presented by Global Water Intelligence and Water Desalination Report

Country profile

Market forecasts

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Contracted and planned plants

Key indicators
19.7 million
Population growth rate
GDP per head
GDP growth rate
Total renewable resources
492 km
Current renewable resources per head 24,708 m/year
Current total abstraction
23,932 million m

Sector structure
Around 300 utility companies provide water and wastewater services in Australias six states and two territories. The largest is the
stateowned Sydney Water Corporation in New South Wales (NSW). It serves more than four million people in the Sydney area and owns
assets worth over A$12 billion (US$8.95 billion). Sydney Water has an annual capital works programme in excess of A$500 million
(US$375 million). In 2006, the corporation decided not to go ahead with a large seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant, preferring
instead to prepare designs so the plant can be constructed at short notice if water levels in the citys reservoirs drop below 30%.
In Victoria, the state-owned Melbourne Water manages Melbournes water supply catchments and collects and treats most of the citys
sewage. It provides approximately 500 million m/year of water to three retail water companies: City West Water, South East Water, and
Yarra Valley Water. In Adelaide, the privately-owned United Water has a 15-year contract with the state government and the South
Water Corporation (SA Water) to operate and maintain the citys water and wastewater assets.
In Western Australia (WA), there are 31 licensed water service providers. The Water Corporation of Western Australia provides water to
approximately 95% of all properties serviced in the state. The Water Corporation is building the largest seawater desalination plant in the
southern hemisphere in alliance with Multiplex and Degrmont. The plant, at Kwinana (Perth), will produce 130,000m3/d of water using
reverse osmosis technology, and became operational in November 2006.
Water resources and environmental management in Australia have traditionally been the responsibility of state and territory governments,
with the federal government in Canberra assuming a coordinating role. In 2005, however, the National Water Commission (NWC) was
created to manage Australias National Water Initiative (NWI), introduced the year before. The NWC is an independent body under the
Prime Ministers jurisdiction which helps state governments implement the NWI. Amongst others, the NWIs objectives
are to increase the efficiency of water use in Australia, for example through the increased use of recycled water, and to return river and
groundwater systems to environmentally sustainable levels of abstraction.

Demand and supply forecasts

In 2000-01, a total of 24,909 million m of water was consumed in Australia. Agriculture was the largest consumer at 16,660 million m,
or 67% of total water consumption. Consumption by households was 2,181 million m (9) while industrial use accounted for 3,814
million m (15). Of water used by industry, the electricity and gas sectors accounted for 1,688 million m, manufacturing 866 million m
and mining 401 million m, with the remaining 859 million m used by other industries.
Australias sustainable developed yield from surface water and groundwater is approximately 80,000 million m/year. Around 25,ooo
million m/year of the developed sustainable yield is available from groundwater, while surface water resources provide up to 50,000
million m/year. Reuse accounted for 517 million m in 2001. The greatest increase in water reuse has been in the agricultural sector,
where reuse increased from 38 million m/yr in the mid-1990s to 423 million m in 2000-01.
The main problem for water resource planners in Australia is not water availability but the high inter-annual rainfall variability. This is
the main reason why Australia stores more water than any other country in the world. More than 4,000 m per capita is stored to ensure a
reliable water supply during periods of drought. To compound the problem of erratic rainfall, some of Australias best water resources


Australia - Desal Data

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are situated at a considerable distance from the main population centres.

Domestic consumption has been increasing over the past two decades as the population of Australia has grown. The Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS) predicts that the population will reach 25 million in 2032, an increase of approximately 21% from todays levels. At the
same time, water availability is expected to decrease by 15% in the eastern states and South Australia (SA). WA, Tasmania and the
Northern Territory will receive roughly the same amount of water in 2032 as they do today, although water demand will increase
significantly in southwestern WA. Australia does not face water shortages on a national scale; the situation instead is that water stress is a
regional issue that is most acute in the Perth and Sydney metropolitan areas.
NSW (state capital Sydney), in combination with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) consumes the most water in Australia, 9,425
million m/year, or 38% of national water consumption. Agriculture consumes 7,322 million m/year, or 78% of the total volume of water
consumed in NSW/ACT. Households in NSW/ACT use more water for domestic purposes than any other state or territory. Total
household water consumption was 679 million m in 2000-2001. Water reuse is greatest in NSW/ACT (52% of all water reuse in
Sydney relies almost exclusively on rain-fed surface water supplies to meet its needs. The Sydney storage system is designed to cope
with extended periods of low rainfall and holds more water per person than most other storage systems around the world. However, to
further diversify water supply, water reuse is playing an increasing role in the water balance, as are emerging options, such as
desalination. Developments are now underway in Sydney to increase the volume of water that is reused to more than 70 million m/year
by 2015. Sydney Water has been developing a 500,000 m/d desalination plant, which was put on hold early in 2006 after it ran into stiff
political opposition. The water authority has proposed restarting the project (with an enlarged capacity of 800,000 m/d) if water levels in
citys reservoirs drop below 30%.
It is estimated that the measures currently in place will lead to an annual supply availability of 575 million m of water, which is enough
to meet or exceed the current levels of water demand until at least 2015 (Metropolitan Water Plan 2006).
In Western Australia, total water use doubled between 1985 and 2000, and is expected to double again by 2020. In 1985, total water use
was about 835 million m/year and 15 years later this had increased to 1,790 million m/year. By 2020, total water use is predicted to
reach 3,500 million m/year. In 2000, licensed users consumed 1,700 million m of water. The other 90 million m of unlicensed use was
small garden bores in Perth (State Water Strategy, 2003). In WA, domestic consumption accounts for 18% of the total amount of water
used. Irrigated agriculture (40) and mining (24) use a greater percentage of water resources.
Water use by households, and that used to irrigate sporting and recreational venues, parks and gardens is expected to continue growing at
a relatively modest rate, in line with or slightly below the population growth curve. However, water use in the mining, industrial and
service sectors is expected to grow strongly. For example, irrigated agriculture use is expected to more than double over the next 20
years, which will place increasing pressure on available water resources for all uses.
To address these projected increases in demand, the Department of Water is in the process of developing a State Water Plan with a
planning horizon of 2030. Under one section of the plan, it is proposed that water allocations be separated from access to land in order to
promote water trading. The plan will also call for a range of water demand and supply options to be considered, including water
conservation, reuse, and desalination.
In 2032, the ABS predicts that the population of Perth will grow from its current figure of 1.4 million to 1.9 million, which is a 35%
increase, meaning that an additional 490,000 people will require water. Supply alternatives such as water trading are not enough to meet
the growing demand, and to help relieve the pressure, the 130,000 m/d desalination plant at Kwinana became operational in November
2006. When it reaches maximum output in January 2007, the plant will supply 17% of Perths water needs.
Incorporating the IDA Desalination Plants Inventory
Presented by Global Water Intelligence and Water Desalination Report
2009 Desal Data / Global Water Intelligence