The Victorian desalination plant has arguably been one of the most controversial multi-billion dollar projects the state has seen, continuing to this day to raise various questions relating to water.
Changes to weather patterns causing water level increases have caused many Victorians to see the development of the desalination plant as unnecessary. This is in addition to the extensive economic issues surrounding the development, which continues to raise doubts on the necessity of the plant in the minds of the vast majority of Victorians.
Only recently, new controversy has risen in regard to the plant, with Victorian households overcharged more than $300 million for water. Melbourne Water admits that while the desalination plant is still not complete, Victorians have – and will continue to – pay higher water costs due to contractual agreements.
Put simply, even though the plant is not operational and is over budget, Victorians will still pay water bills based on the original contracts inclusive of desalination charges.
“What’s occurred is the desal plant hasn’t finished when they said they would finish it, so the payment schedule is not quite as it was intended to be at the start,” says state Premier Ted Baillieu. “No matter when the desal plant finishes, water consumers in Victoria have to pay the bill – that’s the contractual position.”
While this issue is again prompting a large amount of criticism of the major development, green building leaders are urging Australians to trust in the long-term benefitts the desalination plant will offer.
Speaking at the Property Council of Australia’s Sustainable Development Conference, Australian Climate Commissions commissioner Will Steffen has urged Australians to not get comfortable in their current climate. Without the visuals cues of drought, Steffen suggests that Victorians have fallen into a false sense of security that our state of warming is over, saying that the opposite is in fact true.
“We’ve had a couple of wet years,” says Steffen. “(However) our prognosis is a longer term drying trend in the Melbourne region.”
He has urged Victorians especially to see the plant as a major part of long-term green infrastructure in the state, rather than a ‘quick fix’ drought alternative. Building up green infrastructure stocks is the only way to plan for long-term sustainability according to Steffen, and though the upfront costs of green building are often comparatively higher, their long-term payoffs are extreme.
By Tim Moore