By Bonny Burrows
Water from the state’s controversial desalination plant is now flowing into the Cardinia Reservoir, more than four years after the plant’s completion.
Plans for the $4 billion plant, based in Wonthaggi, were announced in 2007 and construction was completed in late 2012, however it wasn’t until the weekend that water started flowing.
Flaws in the project were detected as late as early March when an electrical fault forced the operator to install 30 diesel generators as back-up power supply.
Despite this, the first 50 gigalitres of water flowed into the Emerald/Clematis reservoir on Sunday with the State Government expected to order another 15 gigalitres a year for the next three years.
Initially spruiked as an “insurance policy” in times of low water supply, Water Minister Lisa Neville has since confirmed the plant will be switched on every year and fulfil a minimum water order to top up Victorian dams.
It follows an “extra dry” 2016/17 summer, with Melbourne’s water storages about 66 per cent full, compared with 75.7 per cent at the same time two years earlier.
Rainfall across Melbourne for January and February was also 23 per cent below the 30-year average, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
But the minister said this was always part of the government’s plan to secure water at a time of decreased supply.
“The plant was not built to be turned on just when our water supply reached critical levels,” Ms Neville said.
“Instead its aim is to make sure that our supply doesn’t fall to those levels in the first place.”
Ms Neville said this would mean better water security for communities across the state, and stop large fluctuations in household water bills.
Consumers were expected to face a $12 water bill increase as a result of the project, but Ms Neville said the cost would be completely offset by efficiencies found within the water contract.
“The minimum water order will help with the operation of the plant while not impacting on water bills,” Ms Neville said.