News State Victoria News Drought may prompt desal plant switch on

Drought may prompt desal plant switch on

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Victoria’s multi-billion dollar desalination plant could start producing water for the first time amid record dry spells in parts of the state.

A leaked government report showed the state’s north-west had suffered a water level shrinkage of 50 per cent in just half a year, Fairfax Media reported.

Victorian Environment Minister Lisa Neville confirmed the government was formulating an action plan to combat the conditions, which including switching on the $4 billion desalination plant.

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“We will look at all options, including the desalination plant which is Victoria’s insurance against drought,” Ms Neville said.

The report also showed the Wimmera Mallee region has recorded its lowest rainfall ever over the past 14 months.

It is expected the Wimmera and Glenelg rivers will stop flowing over summer.

“Victoria’s winter rainfall was mostly below average to very much below average over most of the state except East and Central Gippsland,” the report said.

“In addition to the the areas of lowest on record rainfall in western Victoria, northern Victoria and central Victoria have all had severe or serious deficiencies.”

Goulburn-Murray’s Cairn Curran storage has withered to 30 per cent, down from 60 per cent a year ago, while its Tullaroop​ facility has tumbled to 34.7 per cent. It was 57.1 per cent a year ago.

Southern Rural Water’s Werribee Basin is at 33.8 per cent, from 60.0 per cent last year ago. Its Rosslynne​ storage is at 39.8 per cent, from 70.6 per cent.

The report shows Melbourne’s water levels have dropped from 80.4 per cent last year, to currently 74.5 per cent.

Victorian Farmers Federation water council chairman Richard Anderson said the desalination plan must be a cost-effective way to help the state’s dry areas to be worth the effort of switching it on.

“Starting the desalination plant up is not a cheap exercise in its own right and then you’ve got to reverse the North South Pipe to get water out of the Thomson (Dam) into the Goulburn system,” he told Fairfax Media.

“But a drought is a drought and just for human needs alone we might have to do this work.”

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