Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Recycle Water

Today there is an article in The Age [News paper] about using recycled water to cool a coal fired power station and then use the clean water that was being used as drinking water for Melbourne. There appears to be two main areas of concern.

1] The farmers from the area don't want their water, currently held in a dam to go to Melbourne.

2] The power station owners say the recycled water isn't clean enough.

These two statements alone give credence to my thoughts that you don't give the public a choice when it comes to water and recycling or other ways of treatment. Every one has a issue with water and most of us are wrong most of the time.

So here is the article that outlines the proposal and opposition.


THE Bracks Government is facing a backlash from Gippsland over a $1.5 billion plan to secure Melbourne's drinking water supply for 50 years by replacing billions of litres of fresh water used by Latrobe Valley power stations with treated effluent from the city.

With Victoria in the grip of a water crisis, the Government is set to begin working out funding options for the Eastern Water Recycling proposal after a two-year feasibility study found the plan to be viable.

In what would be the biggest water recycling project in Australia, 116 billion litres of fresh water now used to cool the coal-fired Hazelwood, Yallourn and Loy Yang power stations each year would be replaced with recycled wastewater piped from outer suburban Carrum.

Fresh water from Gippsland's Blue Rock Dam would be used to secure drinking water supplies in Melbourne, Geelong and possibly Ballarat, according to Government planning documents obtained by The Age.

The project would also reduce by 85 per cent each year the controversial release of billions of litres of effluent into the ocean from the Gunnamatta outfall on the Mornington Peninsula.

With the Government having ruled out building new dams and Melbourne's population forecast to grow by 1 million by 2030, Labor MPs are anxious for a big project to provide more water security across the state. "(The Eastern Water project) is an extremely exciting project for the Government … it has enormous potential for Melbourne and the whole state if it can be done," a senior Labor MP told The Age.

"I think it will become an imperative that it will need to be done. No government can sit back and do nothing."

But an investigation by The Age has revealed that the Government faces serious political and economic challenges in bringing the project to fruition. The investigation found:

■ Strong opposition from local councils in Gippsland and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union over perceptions that the proposal amounts to a theft of the region's prime water resource to benefit Melbourne.

■ The Government is in dispute with power station owners over the quality of treated effluent. The Government has proposed to treat the water to a lower standard that what the power stations claim to require.

■ Legislation could be introduced forcing the power stations to give up their fresh water.

■ A local Labor MP, Brendan Jenkins, has criticised the Government over how Gippslanders have been consulted.

In an attempt to win support from councils in Gippsland, Water Minister John Thwaites and project director Brian Bayley have visited the Latrobe Valley in recent months. Both declined to be interviewed about the proposal, but Mr Bayley, the former chief of Melbourne Water, has previously said the project could potentially secure Melbourne's water supply for 50 years.

It appears their lobbying has been unsuccessful. Latrobe City Council Mayor Lisa Price told The Age she could not understand why Gippsland should give up one of its main economic advantages — an abundance of fresh water — for places such as Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat to be developed further.

"We understand our responsibility to the rest of the state. We have got the gas, the power and the water. But it has got to the stage where enough is enough.

■ 192 Victorian towns have water restrictions: 84 on low level, 67 on moderate and 41 high level.

■ Melbourne: permanent restrictions from September 1.

■ Geelong: stage one.

■ Ballarat: stage two.

■ Bendigo: severe restrictions — lawn watering banned.

■ Recent $220 million Government plan to pipe irrigation water to Ballarat and Bendigo.

"We cannot go on propping up the state at our own expense," Cr Price said.

Wellington Shire Council chief executive Lyndon Webb said the Government was treating Gippsland as a "milking cow" for the rest of the state, and it had failed to consult the local community.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan, a Gippslander, said the Latrobe Valley was being viewed by the Government as a "receptacle for Melbourne's waste".

Greg Hardy, secretary of the CFMEU's mining and energy division, said the use of treated effluent could increase health risks to workers at the power stations. But of greater concern to the union was the "pillaging" of Gippsland for the benefit of Melbourne.

Before water is diverted anywhere, the Government has to get the power station owners to give up their rights to fresh water from Blue Rock Dam and accept recycled waste water.

The Age believes the companies want the Government to pay for the more expensive reverse osmosis technology to treat the waste water going to each power station. The Government has so far proposed to use reverse osmosis only at Hazelwood and the cheaper, less effective ultra-filtration technology at Yallourn and Loy Yang.

The power station owners are also disappointed with the level of consultation from the Government. "It can't work without us," a senior power company official told The Age.

Government figures have warned that legislation might be introduced to force power stations to give up their water rights.

Mr Jenkins, the Labor MP for Morwell, supports the project but agrees with the criticism of the Government over its failure to consult properly. "There's no doubt that we've got to do a better job of engaging the Gippsland community with the proposals being put forward and investigated," he said.

A spokesman for Mr Thwaites said the Government was still considering the feasibility study and would not comment on agreements with power station owners or whether the proposal would be part of Labor's election campaign.