Our History

Sydney Desalination Plant was constructed in response to the worst drought in 100 years, which saw Sydney's dam levels fall to 34%.

Sydney Desalination Plant History

The project was funded by the NSW Government and was originally owned by Sydney Water Corporation (SWC). Construction of the desalination plant took 3 years from 2007-2010. A purpose built wind farm was constructed by Infigen to provide 100% renewable energy for the plant. The first desalinated drinking water was delivered to Sydney in February 2010. The plant then ran continuously for 2 years, from 2010 to 2012, to prove plant capacity and reliability.

 

The NSW Government sold a 50 year lease on the plant in June 2012 backed by a 50 year water supply contract with SWC. The bid was won by a consortium of Hastings Funds Management and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan at a cost of $2 .3 billion which includes the plant and the pipeline connecting the plant to the water supply network.

 

As a monopoly supplier of desalinated water to Sydney, the Sydney Desalination Plant is regulated by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). The plant is licensed under the NSW Water Industry Competition Act.

 

Dam levels rose to 98% in June 2012 and under the rules of the NSW Metropolitan Water Plan the plant came offline and into standby mode. Veolia Water Australia operate the plant under a 20 year contract and have up to 8 months to restart the plant once the instruction to restart is given. According to our operating rules, as set out by the government, the plant will be instructed to restart when Sydney's total dam levels for below 60%. 

 

Sydney Desalination Plant Timeline

Winter 2002 - Worst drought in 100 years commenced

 

2003 – 2007 - From January 2003 to January 2007, weekly dam storage levels fell 161 times, and rose only 36 times

 

August 2004 - Sydney desalination feasibility study announced

 

2004 – 2005 - The desalination feasibility study considered the most suitable type, size and location

 

2005 – 2006 - Environmental Assessment exhibition and consultation takes place

 

May 2005 - Study confirms that desalination is viable for Sydney

 

June 2005 - First round of tendering to build desalination plant and pipeline begins

 

September 2005 - Desalination project deemed ‘critical infrastructure’

 

December 2005 - Two shortlisted tenderers announced

 

January 2006 - Downpours increase dam storage from 40.7% to 44.7%

 

February 2006 - Tender process terminated and project put on indefinite hold

 

March 2006 - Work starts on blueprint design

 

December 2006 - With dam storages continuing to fall, second round tendering begins for the plant and pipeline     

 

February 2007 - Sydney’s dam levels drop to 33.9%. Sydney Water calculates that work on a desalination plant will need to start by June 2007 to avoid running out of water. Board of Sydney Water recommends to NSW Government that desalination plant be built

 

February 2007 - Two shortlisted tenderers to build desalination plant announced. NSW Government announces plant will definitely be built

 

February 2007 - Tendering to build the desalination pipeline begins

 

April 2007 - Second Environmental Assessment conducted

 

May 2007 - Water Delivery Alliance announced as preferred consortium to develop detailed costing for pipeline

 

June 2007 - Blue Water Joint Venture – John Holland and Veolia Water Australia - announced as successful tenderer to build the desalination plant. Construction of the desalination plant begins

 

August 2007 - Environmental controls put in place                   

 

December 2007 - Water Delivery Alliance’s target cost for pipeline is accepted. Construction of the pipeline begins

 

21 April 2008 - First piece of pipeline installed

 

Mid 2008 - Sydney Water signed 20 year contracts with Infigen for electricity, Renewable Energy Certificates and the construction of the Capital Hill Wind Farm

 

Mid 2009 - Blue Water, the Water Delivery Alliance and Sydney Water worked intensively to commission the plant and pipeline ready for start-up

 

August 2009 - Seawater was successfully brought in through the intake tunnel and returned to the ocean through the outlet

 

September 2009 - Testing of the pipework at high pressure in the reverse osmosis building began

 

October 2009 - The Capital Hill Wind Farm became fully operational

 

December 2009 - 36,000 reverse osmosis membranes were placed into the pressure vessels

 

16 December 2009 - First sample of desalinated water was produced

 

19 December 2009 - Last piece of pipeline installed

 

18 January 2010 - Pipeline declared ‘ready for water’ after flushing and disinfection

 

21 December 2009 - NSW Premier announced that the plant was 95% complete

 

28 January 2010 - NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and Minister for Water. Phil Costa, switch on the plant and officially send the water on its way to customers. The Premier declared the water ‘delicious’, and noted the project was not only on time, but at least $60 million under budget

 

June 2012 - NSW Government sold 50 year lease on the plant backed by a 50 year water supply contract

 

June 2012 - Bid was won by a consortium of Hastings Fund Management and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan at a cost of $2.3 billion, which includes the plant and pipeline

 

June 2012 - Sydney dam levels rise to 98% and under the rules of the NSW Metropolitan Water Plan the plant came offline and entered standby mode

 

July 2012 - Regulated by IPART as a monopoly supplier of desalinated water

 

July 2012 – present - The plant is currently in care and maintenance until the dam levels fall below 70%