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The Adelaide Desalination Plant at Port Stanvac can supply up to 100 gigalitres of water per annum to South Australians, which is about half of all our water needs.

A full description of the plant, including a fly-through movie, can be found at SA Water’s Adelaide Desalination Project. You can also see SA Water staff talking about the project, how it works, the marine and land environment, and what it means for South Australia.

Adding desalinated water to Greater Adelaide’s water supplies is part of our long term Water For Good strategy, which is securing our water future through diversification.

Decision to double the capacity of the plant

The original decision to build the Adelaide Desalination Plant (with capacity of 50 gigalitres per annum) was taken at the height of unprecedented drought conditions. This was at a time when the state was staring at the prospect of emergency measures to meet its critical human water needs. This included measures such as bottled water and groundwater extraction from aquifers underlying Adelaide.

The original decision was a direct response to the recommendations of the Desalination Working Group and was designed specifically to address reductions in inflows in the Mt Lofty Ranges and River Murray.

The subsequent decision to double the capacity of the plant to 100 gigalitres per annum was made during the development of the State Government’s Water Security Strategy, Water for Good (2009). This was not just an emergency response to the drought, but a decision to guarantee Adelaide’s long-term water security. This was necessary to ensure we met the needs of a growing population in a climate which is changing, while reducing our reliance on the River Murray. Guaranteeing Adelaide’s water security was also necessary to secure investment in South Australia.

The decision to double capacity increased the capital cost from $1.374 billion to $1.824 billion.

However, the $450 million in additional costs were off-set partly by Commonwealth funding of $228 million. The State Government’s decision to double capacity in the ‘first build’ also resulted in estimated savings of up to $200 million. This avoided the situation in Perth, where a second desalination plant had to be built because their first was insufficient.

In approving the augmentation options outlined in Water for Good, including the decision to double the capacity of the Adelaide Desalination Plant, the State Government drew on expert advice and analysis from both KPMG and Worley Parsons, as well as from government officials.

A summary of the findings of the independent experts and the reports themselves are provided at the links below:

Adelaide Desalination Plant cost benefit study

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