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Sydney desalination plant reactivated as water levels drop

Sydney Desalination Plant in Kurnell.

Sydney Desalination Plant in Kurnell.Credit:Nick Moir

“As soon as the plant produces water that meets this standard, we will add it to our system,” the statement said.

“Once turned on, every effort will be made to produce water as soon as possible.”

The $2.3 billion plant, built in response to the Millennium drought, was last in usage between 2010 and 2012.

Its revival was in recent days foreshadowed by Utilities Minister Don Harwin, who urged consumers to be mindful of their water usage.

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The plant’s operator, Veolia, will now begin the process of priming the plant, including disinfecting the 18 kilometre-long pipeline that connects the facility to a major Sydney Water supply line at Erskineville.

The plant’s reactivation is expected to heighten water as an election issue, with Labor, the City of Sydney and the Greens stepping up criticism of the Berejiklian government’s handling of the vital resource.

Government ministers on Saturday sought to downplay the additional cost of restarting the plant, saying annual water bills would rise by $35. Under the contract with the private owners, the plant will operate for at least 14 months.

“Under the NSW Liberals and Nationals, Sydney Water customers now have the lowest water bills of any major city in Australia, compared to the second highest bills in the country under Labor,” Mr Harwin said.

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said government regulations were hurting recycled-water operators and developers “who want to do the right thing” at a cheaper price than desalination.

“Desalination is an extreme way to manage water,” Cr Moore said. “Removing salt from seawater to make it drinkable not only carries a massive price tag, it can release unregulated chemicals into drinking water supplies, uses large amounts of energy, pollutes waterways, and threatens fisheries and marine environments.”

With Peter Hannam

Angus Thompson is a court reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.

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