Frequently Asked Questions
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The Sydney Desalination Plant is undergoing major repair following significant damage during a severe storm event that tore through the Kurnell area in December 2015.
After running a competitive tender process, we have selected John Holland Pty Ltd to undertake the repairs.
A storm event occurred in areas across the Sydney region on 16 December 2015. The severity of the storm caused significant damage to property, vehicles and vegetation in Kurnell, including damage to the plant.
The storm was rated by the Bureau of Meteorology as a strong tornado that caused considerable damage. Wind gusts of 213km/h were recorded at Kurnell and this is the strongest maximum wind gust recorded in NSW. For more information please visit the Bureau of Meteorology website.
The plant sustained significant damage from the tornado.
A number of roofs were blown off, including the largest building on-site. There was also significant water and wind damage in the control room and other parts of the facility. Electricity transformers were also damaged.
We expect the repairs of the plant to be completed by the middle of 2018, with testing to be completed by the end of 2018.
Sydney Desalination Plant has comprehensive insurance to support the repairs to the facility.
We have awarded the contract for the repair of the plant to John Holland Pty Ltd.
The desalination plant is a critical piece of infrastructure that will be ready to help secure Sydney’s drinking water supply when needed. Under the Metropolitan Water Plan the operating rules for the plant state that the plant will remain in Water Security Mode (not in production) until the dam levels fall below 60 per cent.
Sydney's Desalination Plant is one effective way of securing Sydney's water supply against the effects of climate change, population growth and drought. Desalination is part of the Metropolitan Water Directorate's Water 4 Life Scheme, along with dams, recycling and water efficiency programs. The plant is powered by 100% renewable energy and can supply up to 250 million litres of water a day, which is approximately 15% of Sydney's water needs. The water provided by the desalination plant benefits all water users in Sydney either directly or indirectly.
Desalination turns seawater into drinking water. Many countries around the world use desalination as a way of creating a more reliable source of water that does not depend on rain.
Desalination is important because it is the only non rainfall dependent direct source of drinking water. Sydney has highly variable rainfall. The Sydney Desalination Plant ensures that Sydney has a secure source of drinking water for now and in the future. Along with dams, recycling and water efficiency programs, desalination can help protect against the impacts of drought, population growth and the effects of climate change.
Sydney Desalination Plant can supply water to up to 1 .5 million people south of Sydney Harbour and as far west as Bankstown, as part of all of their water supply.
Sydney Desalination plant began supplying drinking water for Sydney on 28 January 2010. On 9 December 2011 Sydney's total dam storage level reached 80% and the plant was instructed to reduce capacity to 90 mega litres per day. When the dam storage level reached 90% the pant was directed to come offline on 1 July 2012.
Sydney Desalination Plant is currently switched off and in care and maintenance mode. The plant will be instructed to restart when Sydney's total dam storage falls below 60%. The restart process is estimated to take eight months, however Sydney Desalination Plant and our operator Veolia, will do our best to beat this target.
Under the NSW Government's current operating rules, the plant will be instructed to cease operations if Sydney's total dam storage rises above 70%.
Desalination is the process of removing dissolved salts and other particles from seawater. Sydney Desalination Plant is powered by 100% renewable wind energy and uses reverse osmosis to extract fresh water from seawater. The plant contains over 36,000 reverse osmosis membranes which, under pressure, filter out particles and salts, so that fresh water can pass through, leaving the seawater concentrate to be returned to the ocean.
Pre-treatment of seawater
- Seawater flows into the plant under gravity, through a large pipe.
- Large screens are used to filter out debris down to 3 milimetres in diameter
- The Seawater is then filtered through sand and coal to remove even smaller particles
Desalination - Reverse osmosis
The very clean seawater, is then forced at high pressure through thousands of reverse osmosis membranes, which act as very fine filters, to remove dissolved salts and other particles. Fresh water is extracted and seawater concentrate is left behind. Approximately 42% of the seawater becomes drinking water.
The fresh water produced by the Sydney Desalination Plant is treated to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Fluoride is added to protect teeth, as is done with all of Sydney's water.
The drinking water then travels through an 18 kilometre pipeline to join the Sydney Water supply network at Erskineville. It can supply up to 1.5 million people south of Sydney Harbour and as far west as Bankstown.
The remaining seawater concentrate is about twice as salty and about one degree warmer than the ocean. It is returned through a large pipe that lies beneath the seabed. The seawater is dispersed using specially designed diffusers which return the seawater concentrate to normal salinity and temperature within 50-75 metres from the outlet point.
Approximately 58% of the intake seawater is returned to the ocean as seawater concentrate or brine. The seawater concentrate is about twice the salinity and one degree warmer than the ocean.
The seawater concentrate flows through the outlet tunnel and is dispersed deep in the ocean through specially designed diffuser nozzles attached to the outlet risers. The seawater concentrate returns to normal temperature and salinity within 50-75 metres of the outlet.
The Sydney Desalination Plant requires roughly 46 Megawatts at full production. The energy it consumes is equivalent to the energy consumed by a domestic fridge if all of the water used in the household was supplied from our desalination plant.
SDP places a high priority on minimising any environmental impacts - both on land and in the water. To support this, SDP has put in place one of the most stringent marine environment monitoring programs of its kind. The marine environment was monitored for three years before construction and for three years after commissioning.
The Marine and Estuarine Monitoring Program (MEMP) has also been a strong focus of the SDP. Research has shown that, once dishcarged to the ocean, the seawater concentrate returns to normal temperature and salinity within 50 - 75 metres from the outlet. This is called the near field mixing zone. It has been found that there are no significant impacts on seawater quality or aquatic ecology from the seawater concentrate beyond the near field mixing zone and minimal impact within near field mixing zone.
On land , a third of the plant site at Kurnell has been kept as a conservation area. This area is protected and native species of flora and fauna are regularly monitored. This includes a program to survey the numbers of grey headed flying foxes and green and golden bell frogs in the area.
The Capital Hill Wind Farm at Bungendore produces more than enough energy to offset the power needs of the desalination plant and is an environmentally friendly way to supply the power needs of the Sydney Desalination Plant.
Sydney Desalination Plant water is treated to taste the same as Sydney's other drinking water sources. Like dam water, water from the desalination plant is treated to meet Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, which makes it among the best in the world.
The Sydney Desalination Plant will supply water at full capacity when the dam levels drop to 60% and will continue to operate at full capacity until dam levels reach 70%.