Desalting options for Adelaide's water supply

Postgraduate students Michelle Wittholz and Kylie Hyde will examine the potential of seawater as a source for Adelaide's drinking supplies.

Postgraduate students Michelle Wittholz and Kylie Hyde will examine the potential of seawater as a source for Adelaide's drinking supplies.
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Thursday, 7 March 2002

DESALTED water is being considered as a potential new and alternative supply of drinking water for Adelaide. The idea comes from University of Adelaide researchers heading a major study into the issue.

The study, funded by a 2002 ARC Linkage Grant, will be conducted over the next three years, with the results likely to have implications for how and where Adelaide obtains its future drinking water.

The University study will be jointly undertaken by two postgraduate students from the departments of Chemical Engineering and Civil & Environmental Engineering. It will focus on how desalting (or desalination)-the process of removing salts from water-would help resolve some predicted water quality problems.

The options to be studied include: seawater desalination along the metropolitan coastline; desalting of river water as it is pumped from the River Murray or reservoirs in the Adelaide Hills; desalination of reclaimed sewage from Adelaide's wastewater treatment plants; and desalination of groundwater.

One of the project's chief investigators, Dr Chris Colby from the University's Department of Chemical Engineering, says the amount of salinity in Adelaide's water supply is already a concern.

Adelaide uses an annual average of about 180 billion litres of water each year, with about half of this coming from the River Murray.

"Now a recent salinity audit by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission has found that average water salinity could exceed desirable drinking water quality by 40% of the time within the next 20 years, unless remedial action is taken," he says. "Federal and state governments are already working on a 15-year strategy to improve river water quality and maintain salinity at current levels. However, desalination represents an alternative water supply option that could be considered.

"Desalination has traditionally been regarded in Australia as an expensive technology, but desalting costs have gone down dramatically in the last decade. New large-scale desalting plants built overseas are now able to produce freshwater from seawater, for less than $1 per kilolitre. Desalination is already being used elsewhere in South Australia-albeit on a more-expensive, smaller scale-on Kangaroo Island, Olympic Dam and at Coober Pedy, so why not for Adelaide?"

The study has the financial support of the South Australian Departments of Industry and Trade, and Water Resources, and will feed into an integrated water management strategy being developed for metropolitan Adelaide by the State Government.


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Dr Chris Colby
Business: +61 8 8313 5846

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The University of Adelaide
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