The State Government this week made the decision to order 50 Gigalitres of water from the desalination plant at a cost of $27 million.
Having considered the data in the attached table, I find it difficult to understand why.
Current metropolitan storage levels, with winter around the corner, are 10% above the average level over the past 10 years.
On top of this is must be remembered this water can only be used for town water supplies, it will not be used to fill up dams or other agricultural purposes and it cannot be piped to the drought areas in our state.
Water levels are currently at 63.7 per cent (March 2016) compared to 30 per cent in March 2009 during the worst of the drought.
And water levels are almost the same as March 2012 when storages later that year ended up at the highest levels in a decade at 81.4 per cent.
Even if Victoria floods, this order cannot be cancelled. This cost is on top of the $1.8 million per day (yes that is right, per day) that we are paying for this facility for 23 more years.
The Nationals were not opposed to the construction of a small, 50GL capacity desalination plant, but we have always expressed grave concerns over the size and the excessive total cost of the Wonthaggi plant that the previous Labor Government delivered.
All up this facility will cost an estimated $18-19 billion when it is paid off (and that is without the charges when water is ordered). When you consider the Kwinana Desalination Plant in Perth that was completed in 2006 and has roughly 30–50% the output of the Wonthaggi plant cost just $387 million, you can see the difference.
Fast Facts - Melbourne water storages
Current storage levels - 63.7 per cent
Highest level recorded (in past ten years) - 81.4 per cent (Nov 2012)
Lowest level on record - 25.9 per cent (June 2009)
Average storage levels (During March, 2007-2016) - 53.62 per cent
March 7, 2016