What California can learn from the Australian drought experience

Guest essay by Eric Worrall-

Sydney, NSW seawater desalination plant- Image source: desalination.edu.au
Back in the early 2000s, much of Australia was in the grip of a severe drought – so severe, that the climate community was making well publicised claims that the drought would never end. As a result of these scaremongering predictions, from people who claimed to have predictive skill, and the devastating prospect of millions of voters going thirsty, Australia’s state and federal governments panicked, and commissioned the urgent construction of a series of desalination plants.


Here is the story of what happened to those plants.


The Gold Coast desalination plant: $1.2 billion / unknown


The Perth desalination plant: $387 million / 180GWh / year


The Sydney desalination plant: $1.8 billion / 257 GWh / year


The Victorian desalination plant: $5.7 billion / unknown


The Southern seawater plant: $955 million / unknown


The Adelaide desalination plant: $1.8 billion / unknown


Naturally, like any government programme, especially *hasty* government programmes, the result has been a public financial disaster. The Gold Coast plant was mothballed a year after construction, and has never worked properly – the initial opening was delayed because fittings rusted up, before the plant was even switched on. The Perth plant is still operating, though in 2008 it was shut down twice because it was causing ocean die off – deoxygenation of Cockburn Sound. The Sydney plant has been criticised over water quality concerns, regarding the proximity of the seawater inlet to the desalination plant to the nearby sewage ocean outfall. Although it is still operating at low capacity, economists have described the project as a billion dollar bungle.

The Victorian plant, the most expensive at $5.7 billion, has been an unmitigated disaster – it finally went fully operational in 2012, and was immediately shut down, because it wasn’t needed. Due to the deal struck with the private operator of the plant, Victorian residential water bills have risen by 64%.

The Southern Seawater plant according to Wikipedia is operational – details on it appear to be a bit sparse, which who knows, might be good news.

The Adelaide desalination plant – OK, maybe that one was a good idea. There is an old saying in Australia, that there are 2 places in the world that ships won’t take on water, Adelaide and Azerbaijan. Before the desalination plant, Adelaide’s only source of potable water was 1500 miles of farm irrigation runoff extracted from the Murray River (I accidentally tried to drink a glass of Adelaide water once – horrible).

So what should California do, if the current drought turns into a megadrought? Frankly I would consider building a pipeline, and importing the water. I doubt you would get enough water to keep current farming practices going, but that applies to desalination as well, at least with current technology. At least pipes are well known technology, they work, and they are already used on a large scale to shift petroleum. Shifting a bit of water should surely be a lot cheaper than trying to desalinate it.

If the pipeline isn’t enough, then you could look at dusting off the old plans for using icebergs as a source of fresh water – we’ve got plenty of Antarctic sea ice to spare. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/science-warms-to-iceberg-harvesting-idea/story-e6frg6so-1226110420439

If you really want to avoid seeing your water bills go up by 64%, while the dams fill with rain, as the poor Victorians in Australia did, or see the plant fittings go rusty before it is even switched on, as the Queenslanders did, at least make sure there is some proper oversight and accountability. And try to avoid building the seawater inlet pipe next to a sewage outlet, as they did in Sydney.

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September 30, 2014 4:01 pm

Moving icebergs is likely not so easy. There were several Science Fiction near future books a few years back in which it was the theme, and in both cases the Author’s were working with Shelf ice rather than the classic Iceberg.
The one thought that popped into my head at the mention of using pipelines was what about super mega tankers. If all they are carrying is water there are a lot of short cuts they could likely take because spillage and pollution would not be such an issue.

Reply to  peter
September 30, 2014 5:46 pm

An absurd idea. The bergs come from Greenland. Or Antarctica. I think Worrall is having some fun with us. As for a pipeline, who in the western US wants to see their water shipped to California or anywhere outside their state? A pipeline is not a practical solution. More reservoirs is what is needed.

Reply to  mpainter
September 30, 2014 9:27 pm

‘The Sydney Iceberg — April Fool’s Day, 1978’
Dick Smith, millionaire, humorous.

Reply to  mpainter
September 30, 2014 11:18 pm

A pipeline from Canada would work. Expensive, though.

Reply to  peter
October 1, 2014 2:59 am

Icebergs are from ice shelves themselves are from the ice sheet. Sea ice will contain salt.

Reply to  johnmarshall
October 1, 2014 3:09 am

mmm just a little link for you to read.

September 30, 2014 4:08 pm

California has pipelines already in the form of the California Aqueduct. The problem is that population growth – particularly in LA – has been far faster than anyone envisioned.
The solution appears to be to clear out the farmers along the aqueduct’s path – the ones who agreed to give access to the aqueduct in return for rights to some of the water.

Reply to  c1ue
October 1, 2014 6:23 am

No new water stealing projects can be approved under current environmental laws. In any event, the surge of illegals and the likely decadal length of the drought makes it a moot point. Read The West Without Water, by some UC scientists, on the history of California climate and weather.

September 30, 2014 4:09 pm

And pipe the water from where? They’re already stealing far too much water from the Colorado River.
Mississippi? Great Lakes? Over my dead body.

Reply to  Merrick
September 30, 2014 6:55 pm

A pipeline from Canada – call it the Keystone WL Pipeline!

Reply to  PeterK
October 1, 2014 8:28 am

Brilliant! And when the rains come back to California they could always switch it over to oil.

Reply to  Merrick
September 30, 2014 7:43 pm

Just north of CA are two states noted for their rainfall, I bet they might have some. Bring back the peripheral canal!

Reply to  Paul Bell
September 30, 2014 9:36 pm

The governor *is* trying to bring back the Peripheral Canal, this time without asking the voters first (as he did in his second term as governor).
The Peripheral Canal would not ease any shortage. It would simply extend the long practice of Southern California stealing water from Northern California, and is why many of us in the North would like to be a separate state.

Sagebrush Gardener
Reply to  Paul Bell
September 30, 2014 10:35 pm

The only part of Washington and Oregon that gets much rain is west of the Cascades. Even there, Seattle gets less rainfall annually than Atlanta. Where I live, east of the Cascades, we get only 8-10 inches per year — almost desert. We have the Columbia River, but I don’t think anyone here is too keen on sharing it with California.

Reply to  Paul Bell
October 2, 2014 8:33 am

Not only would we be “stealing” more water from the north, Moonbeam is telling any and every current/potential illegal to come drink/wash/water their lawn/fill their pool with it!

Reply to  Merrick
September 30, 2014 10:43 pm

What is wrong with using the water from the great lakes? I am just curious because, being in Australia, the idea of such a vast amount of fresh water is mind boggling. Our largest river system is really just a small muddy stream compared with even some of your smaller rivers.

Tommy E
Reply to  CameronH
October 1, 2014 4:55 am

“… the idea of such a vast amount of fresh water …”
The problem with using the Water in the Great Lakes is that although everyone gets excited with the total quantity of water in the basins, what they really need to look at is the net flow through the system. According to Wikipedia, the source of all human knowledge, the average flow of the St. Lawrence river where it drains out of Lake Ontario is “7,410 m3/s (262,000 cu ft/s)”. By comparison, the flow of the much closer Columbia River is “265,000 cubic feet per second (7,500 m3/s)”. Considering that the Great Lakes basin is nearly three times as large as the Columbia river basin, there really isn’t that much water available for anything other than current uses. Additionally, over the long term, the current flow is unsustainable. Those of us living near the lakes will tell you that the lake levels are slowly dropping, and that some of this is due to the land tilting from glacial rebound. When the rebound stops, a portion of the flow will subside. Surprisingly, a large portion of the water in the lake system will not flow anywhere by itself as the floor of Lake Superior, the largest and deepest of the lakes, is lowest point on the North American continent and is actually some 700 ft below sea level. The surface of Lake Superior, the highest of the Great Lakes, is only 602 ft above sea level with a maximum depth of 1,332 ft. In between California and the Great lakes, the land of the southwestern united states averages more than 4,000 ft above sea level. In totality, it is really a stupid idea.

Reply to  CameronH
October 1, 2014 4:59 am

It will never happen because there is a pact between the individual US states and Ontario in Canada preventing the export of water from the great lakes. They cannot even agree on using the water between them. Unless there was agreement between the states and Ontario that made it worth their while it would never happen. Beside thaat the cost of the pipeline and the pumping would kill the project. This has been discussed before

Don K
Reply to  CameronH
October 1, 2014 5:17 am

What is wrong with using the water from the great lakes?
Other than having to pump water 3000 km across the Mississippi River and over several good sized mountain ranges and the fact that pumping water from the Great Lakes would require the agreement of the governments of eight US states and at least two Canadian Provinces who would probably think it a very bad idea as well as the governments in Ottawa and Washington … nothing.
A system of aqueducts from the lower Mississippi across the arid Southwest to California would face fewer political and geographic difficulties and might have some popular support. But its not clear how much water would get to California at what cost.

Reply to  CameronH
October 1, 2014 6:26 am

It is simply not possible under Federal Environmental law. Also, it would touch off a war between the States.

John Boles
September 30, 2014 4:12 pm

We have plenty of nice clean clear water here in Michigan, but the winters are nasty.

Reply to  John Boles
October 2, 2014 7:02 am

you will be ok when global warming kicks in.

Disgusted Lank
September 30, 2014 4:14 pm

What California can learn from Australia? Not much of the good stuff if you go along with the Canberra Government which recently decided to sponser a bit of theatre entitled “Kill Climate Deniers”. Yes, you read that correctly, Canberra as you know is the Australian capital and as Don Aitken and Warwick Hughes have pointed out it has recently granted the Aspen Island Theatre Company$18,793 to ….suggest murder of climate sceptics is okay … http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/

tockley smoo
Reply to  Disgusted Lank
October 1, 2014 5:58 am

dont confuse the australian government with the ACT government. it is the latter which is just a glorified local council that is responsible for this particular idiocy

Cold in Wisconsin
September 30, 2014 4:14 pm

Why not try growing food where you have adequate water? Government subsidies and price supports have so distorted the agricultural market that we now grow corn for ethanol in the richest farmland in the world where there is (usually) plenty of water, and we grow our food where the water is scarce. Case in point: California is now the nations dairy state instead of my state of Wisconsin. It’s not that they were better at it, but the government milk subsidies are based on the distance of the farm from Eau Claire, Wisconsin: the farther a farmer is from that centerpoint, the more they are paid for their milk. Wisconsin farmers all gave up and started growing corn for ethanol instead of corn for their dairy cattle. Maybe we can start importing milk soon.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 2, 2014 7:12 am

What a totally bizarre situation.

Leon Brozyna
September 30, 2014 4:19 pm

Now that’s a major assumption at work here … that the people in a position to commit similar foul-ups (politicians) will ever learn anything.
When the fantasyland politicians get an idea in their echo-chamber heads, they’ll arrogantly assume that they’re smarter than their Australian counterparts and will proceed to commit the same blunders in their own unique style.
They’ve already shown a standard ability to screw things up with an infrastructure that’s been neglected for decades.

September 30, 2014 4:19 pm

There have already been proposals to bring water from where it is…Alaska, Canada, and the Great Lakes.. to California. California has been stealing water from surrounding states for over 100 years. Ask the people who lived in the Owens Valley what happened. The Central Valley farmers don’t stand a chance.

September 30, 2014 4:24 pm

Stay tuned for activation of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in 2015.
We’re all hoping for success.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Eric
September 30, 2014 9:24 pm

Desal’s use a lot of electricity to drive the RO pumps. That electricity, now that San Onofre Nuclear is shuttered, has a big carbon footprint to keep the Watermelons fretting about.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
September 30, 2014 9:43 pm

Yeah they’ll need to burn alotta desal fuel.

September 30, 2014 4:25 pm

The whole point of the desalination plants was to ENSURE certain people [made] MONEY. Follow the money and you will find climate change.
Australia is a land of climate extremes and zones.

Reply to  Jimbo
September 30, 2014 9:19 pm

Let’s see . . . a cubic meter of seawater contains 6 x 10^-6 grams gold . . .

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
October 1, 2014 12:53 am

Mining gold from seawater probably makes more economic sense than wind turbines… 🙂

Reply to  Jimbo
October 1, 2014 3:22 pm

Unions and union super funds, predominantly. Most if not all of the desal plants were commissioned by Labor governments. The Victorian one is an especially interesting case study in unions rorting money.

September 30, 2014 4:26 pm

Typo correction:
ENSURE certain people made MONEY.

September 30, 2014 4:33 pm

I live two blocks from the Carlsbad Desal plant, and it’s an impressive project. It’s on the site of an existing (though old) natural gas turbine power plant, on the vast acreage that was already owned and occupied by that plant. Despite my NIMBY neighbors, the plant is going ahead, and we’re thrilled. May it be the first of many! My only concern is the possibility of a ‘dead area’ in the ocean around wherever they jettison the salt and organics that will be extracted. Other than that, three cheers for finally doing the right thing!

Reply to  JoanieB
September 30, 2014 9:08 pm

Put the removed salt in little blue cardboard cylinders with a label that says: “When it rains, it pours!”

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
October 1, 2014 1:49 am

Ship the salt back east where it can be used to melt ice during the winter.

Reply to  JoanieB
October 1, 2014 10:21 am

…and of course, the desal plant in Carlsbad is right next to the poop plant that serves all the cities in North County. And then there is the fish farm in the lagoon next to the plant…and the power plant next to that…
We used to wonder why Carlsbad was “blessed” taking care of all the neighboring cities, inluding the time to 50-year old pipe burst in the lagoon near the mall, flooding the lagoon with raw sewage from Vista.

September 30, 2014 4:34 pm

One thing Californians can do is to pretend drought is a new thing. As with Australia, that simply involves ignoring the entire history, geography, geology, biology, pre-history and paleo of the country. Easily done these days, now that boring old Enlightenment thing has been canned.

September 30, 2014 4:46 pm

Why not hire an Israeli engineering firm that knows what they are doing in desalinization and get the federal government to pay for building a string of plants to meet the needs of the cities. Looks like the feds will do almost anything to keep California happy and those lawns in LA and Frisco need water.
One thing that is guaranteed if they start returning the water to the central valley the likelihood of drought will reduce and conversely if they keep taking all the water out of the rivers in the mountains and piping it to the cities there will be longer and drier droughts. That is manmade climate change

Reply to  cdandy
October 1, 2014 6:15 am

Excellent point. The Israelis seem to have made great progress and are pushing ahead with R&D on more efficient desalinization solutions (e.g. using nano membranes, etc.). Rather than the Australian approach, a collection of smaller pilot plants could be built much more quickly and with somewhat less financial risk.

September 30, 2014 4:48 pm

We’ve been successfully fighting building a desalination plant in the city where I live for over a decade now. We have sufficient water and excellent water management but we also have the ocean at our doorstep and water intake pipes already installed for a soon to be decommissioned power plant. The proposed plant would only provide fresh water for about 100K people and the plan is to sell the water to those cities that need it at elevated prices. The corporation that is lobbying to build the plant has failed in Florida with several installations but money is corrupting and now with the drought scare they are in full press mode. So far we’ve been able to neutralize them but I don’t know how long we can keep it up without sufficient rain.

September 30, 2014 4:50 pm

Australia has piped water from Perth to Kalgoorlie for over 100 years a distance of about 590 kilometres. The project was commissioned in 1896 and was completed in 1903.
The pipeline continues to operate today, supplying water to over 100,000 people in over 33,000 households as well as mines, farms and other enterprises.
Initially a steam pump was used, it took 9 months for the first water to arrive in Kalgoorlie. In 1972 it was converted to electric power to drive the pumps.
`When first devised the project had it’s critics & some said it was a crackpot idea. However crackpot ideas do not usually remain working over a long period of time.

Philip Bradley
September 30, 2014 4:54 pm

Here in Western Australia, the water supply problem is mostly due to catchment management, as Warwick Hughes has extensively documented. In simple terms, trees and brush need to be cut down in water catchments, otherwise the trees and brush utilize the available water This used to be routine, until green pressure groups started to influence government.
Perth’s water catchments are naturally heavily forested, and a mature native tree consumes roughly the same amount of water as the average Perth household. Consequently, runoff into the dams has fallen dramatically.
It’s hard not to conclude that the declining runoff is deliberate policy, because declining SW rainfall was an early prediction of the AGW proponents and probably the only prediction that still has some credibility, precisely because of the reduced dam levels and inflows.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Reply to  Philip Bradley
September 30, 2014 10:47 pm

Good rainfall data. You also mentioned that “Perth’s water catchments are naturally heavily forested”. Once you remove greenbelt, the rainfall comes down automatically. When we look at the figure upto 1996, everything was O.K. but why after 1996 the deviation increased between blue and red. Was there some thing that reduced the catchment efficiency. This must be looked in to to resolve the problem. Rainfall follow cyclic pattern.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Eeddy

Dirk Pitt
September 30, 2014 5:35 pm

OK, here is a deal. Here in Canada we have plenty of fresh water, enough to drown entire California in the midst of most severe droughts, and we would be glad to run a mega pipeline down south. However, it’s pipeline for pipeline.

Reply to  Dirk Pitt
September 30, 2014 5:53 pm

Chuckle, chuckle. Canada will get her pipeline to markets whenever the present crowd of nincompoopz gets evicted from the WH. Sit tight.

Dirk Pitt
Reply to  mpainter
September 30, 2014 8:52 pm

I have no doubts about it. Common economic sense must prevail, sooner than later.

Reply to  mpainter
September 30, 2014 11:27 pm

You’re assuming the next batch of ‘nincompoopz’ will be better than the current batch?

Bob in Castlemaine
Reply to  Dirk Pitt
September 30, 2014 6:54 pm

I guess a pipeline for water instead of oil might be acceptable to the environmentalists? But then maybe not they’d probably be worried about stealing water from the rivers, the excuse used here in Victoria to prevent the building of a large new dam that would have provided double the amount of water at a fraction of the cost of the never used, mothballed Wonthaggi desal plant. But the Green/Left got its way and now the state must pay $1M per week for a mothballed plant that delivers no water and we will be paying that amount for the next 28 years.
The building of the desal plant also provided an opportunity for Australia’s outlaw unions for one of the biggest union rorts in the state’s history. If there ever was an example of why to avoid like the plague a large union dominated, government project like a desalination plant, Wonthaggi is it:

But the CFMEU has played a key role in Victoria’s budget-destroying infrastructure construction costs.
A standout example is Victoria’s desalination plant. Completed in 2012, it has been valued by the government at $5.7 billion, reflecting the cost of its construction. But it is only three times the size of the $387 million Perth desalination plant that opened in 2006. Comparatively, the Victorian plant should have cost at most $2bn; it was a money-rorting plaything for the CFMEU.

While it sounds fanciful, a long distance pipeline might end up a cheaper alternative in the long run. Such an idea was floated here for a scheme to pipe water from Tasmania, across Bass Straight, a distance of three or four hundreds of kilometres. Tassie is flush with water, it’s the only Australian state with enough water to run its power grid for many years on hydro power exclusively.

Bob in Castlemaine
Reply to  Bob in Castlemaine
September 30, 2014 7:31 pm

My apologies, the cost of Victoria’s mothballed desal plant that supplies no water is not $1M per week, but in excess of $1M per day.

Reply to  Dirk Pitt
September 30, 2014 7:12 pm

Sounds like a win-win to me!

TImo Soren
September 30, 2014 5:53 pm

On top of the De-Salination boondoogles, Flannery pushed GeoDynamics which since 2008 has dropped from $1.67 stock price to the present $.044, or 97% of it value lost. (An irony in that number.) ARENA originally had announced a $90 Million dollar grant to them for Copper Basin but because of ‘issues’ announced on September 24th, 2014 that that grant had been reduced to about $59.5 million and since $34 million had already been spent that still have about $25 million more to go provided GeoDynamics made certain milestones. Those milestones appear to be to work with Beach Energy on assisting with technology on SHALE-GAS extraction! Abandoning its green roots and forced to sell out to Evil Hydro Carbons. I believe that move was a change or die moment.

September 30, 2014 6:05 pm

“The Sydney plant has been criticised over water quality concerns, regarding the proximity of the seawater inlet to the desalination plant to the nearby sewage ocean outfall.”
Uhhh…the plant uses reverse osmosis. The quality of the intake water is irrelevant – reverse osmosis cleans it all. You could direct the sewage output directly into the plant. The output of the reverse osmosis is still distilled water.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  JKrob
September 30, 2014 8:09 pm

It is a poor practice in general to have wastewater discharge anywhere close to a raw water intake.
You really want RO treating the “cleanest” water possible. The dirtier water the you bring in, the greater energy required for power the process and the quicker the membranes foul.
You can get basically distilled water with small scale systems. Large-scale high-rate plants which have multiple passes through membranes in order to get high recovery rates remove solids to drinking water quality levels but certainly not to the level of distilled water. That would be entirely impractical.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
September 30, 2014 11:22 pm

I agree with your comment re a clean intake.
And why the hell would we want distilled water coming out of the taps – ask anyone who ever tasted it!

Reply to  JKrob
October 1, 2014 1:15 am

From bottom to mouth eh? The efficiency & reliability of the RO process demands an unpolluted source of seawater. Floaters clog screens. Not a task I’d volunteer for.

September 30, 2014 6:08 pm

Sydney’s main water supply is the Warragamba Dam constructed between 1948 and 1960 at a time when the cities population was about 2 million. The population is now about 4 million. In the early 2000’s drought it was almost empty; of course we were told man made Global Warming was the reason as man made Climate Change hadn’t been discovered at that time.
Had the population still been 2 million it would still have been half full.
Of course the solution would be to build another dam but the environmentalists would never allow it.

Reply to  RexAlan
October 1, 2014 1:50 am

Each species occupies its own niche in nature. If the conditions change, some species adapt, others become extinct. Environ MENTALISTS are of a species that only flourishes where there are grants & a miasma of CO2 fear. As the grants dry up & CO2 re-asserts its status as a plant food, watermelons will perish, because they are genetically inferior, as illustrated by their colouration (green & red), delusional behaviour (Panicus Modus) & not being able to comprehend the wheel of fortune. http://cliodynamics.info/MathHist.htm
I look forward to the purge, whence they are flushed out of society.

September 30, 2014 7:01 pm

A desal plant that could work:
Take a gas rich/stranded gas area. Operate an auto-thermal reformer (ATR) to make syngas and a Fischer-Tropsch reactor (FTR) to make ultra-clean hydrocarbon liquids. Use the steam generated by the ATR and FTR in a steam turbine to generate electricity. Rather than vacuum condensing the steam, just take it down to 50 Lbs or so. Use the steam to run a Multi-stage-flash (MSF) desal.
A 10,000 BPD plant (small) could generate 1 MM Lb/Hr of 1000# steam and about 1MM LB/Hr of 600# Steam. After electricity generation you end up with 2 MMLB/Hr of 50 Lb steam. A MSF desal can do 10:1 on a Lb/Lb basis or about 20MM Lb/Hr of fresh water.

September 30, 2014 7:11 pm

An underground aqueduct system like the one built in Winnipeg in the early 1900’s would work nicely for California providing there is a mountain lake that the water can be drawn from.

Reply to  PeterK
October 1, 2014 5:52 am

Malmö in Sweden is provided with water throiugh a 50 mile rock tunnel plus a 50 mile pipeline from Lake Bolmen. It works OK, it supplies about 800,000 people, but is still something of a boondoggle since it has never been used to more than about 1/3 of capacity. It was built back in the ´70s and sized in accordance with then current political growth plans.
By the way, if you select a rock tunnel don’t try to cross a major tectonic fault zone. The Bolmen tunnel does, and it caused major time and cost overruns. And of course the same thing was repeated 20 years later with a major railway tunnel in the same area with the same result, only much worse.

September 30, 2014 8:09 pm

Couple of years ago the subject came up for building a water pipeline out of the Columbia river, through Oregon to California. The greenies came unglued!

Mr Black
September 30, 2014 8:52 pm

My understanding of the nature of the Victorian plant is that the whole scheme was a pay-off between the labour-left government and the unions. The salaries being approved for plant workers were obscene, Janitors were on nearly 150K a year, tradesmen were on over 200K a year and so on. Because the taxpayer was footing the operational bill for the place the owner didn’t care what it cost to run or staff so the unions extorted these huge salaries in exchange for not causing any trouble. The entire thing was just graft from beginning to end.

Reply to  Mr Black
September 30, 2014 9:00 pm

government and unions giving themselves work.

Tim Neilson
Reply to  Mr Black
October 1, 2014 1:40 am

Yes, and the then Labor government was behind in the polls close to an election so they signed up to absolutely whatever they were asked just so they could announce a big new project full of green/left approved CAGW nonsense before voting took place.

September 30, 2014 8:59 pm

There is no problem with the water quality in Sydney, the sewerage outfalls don’t affect it.
Droughts come, droughts go, California needs to look at the MWP (dont ask Michael Mann-he wont know what you are talking about) to see what happens when its a little warmer.

Grey Lensman
September 30, 2014 9:45 pm

Look what Libya did, largest scheme in the world. Until they blew it up.

September 30, 2014 9:56 pm

Adelaide’s desal plant:
The development has been controversial because of its $1.8 billion price tag, delays in construction and the death of a worker in 2010.
In October, SA Water admitted the plant is likely to be mothballed in 2015 after its warranty period expires.

September 30, 2014 10:34 pm

Eric Worrall, you say “Due to the deal struck with the private operator of the plant, Victorian residential water bills have risen by 64%.” WOW… if that doesn’t get the Progressives in California to start demanding desal plants, nothing will.

September 30, 2014 10:46 pm

If I could be a dictator, I would build a 30m wide by 30m deep channel from the ocean to Death Valley (total length would be a couple hundred miles). Would have great salt water recreation sites and new businesses. Could set up a few desal plants along the route as well. At the end of the channel before getting to Death Valley, could set up a large hydroelectric plant to make use of the 200ft drop in elevation. Turn about 400 sq miles of death valley into a divided flood plain at the base of the hydroelectric plant, flooding about 200sq miles at a time. After the water depth in the first 200sq mile half reaches about a foot in depth, flood the other half and let first half evaporate to dryness. Mine the salt layer that results for metals (Au?) and road salt. The vast amount of water that evaporates from DV would be immense as it is the hottest place on earth in summer. May results in a wetter southwest as all of that water will come down as fresh water rain somewhere else. May also aid in slowing global warming

Reply to  alcheson
September 30, 2014 10:50 pm

Mmmm… mean 300m wide by 30m deep. 30×30 is too small. 🙂

Reply to  alcheson
October 1, 2014 1:15 am

Typical dictator stunt.
Just a little North and East is a place called the Great Salt Lake and a very large area called the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Well, a days drive anyway from Death Valley. Ever drive for hours at 75mph (121kmh) over a flat white surface? Easy to do on the flats West of the Great Salt Lake.
Kinda cool in it’s own way, occasionally a rain/snow cloud breaks loose and manages to drop some rain on the salt flats.
Residents and passerby’s get a terrific chance to throw salt balls at each other; sodden salt packed into a ball and thrown. Try not to get hit though, especially as one isn’t usually wearing thick insulating snow duds and it is really hard to get salt out of one’s clothes without a shower; and showers are scarce on the flats.
Morton, the blue box people “when it rains, it pours”, still mine salt on the flats near the Great Salt Lake; only I understand that they get purer cheaper salt out of mines in America’s Midwest for table salt.
Yes, America has a number of salt mines underground. Also cool places; they drive the giant ore trucks (street legal size) right in/out the mine. The salt is blasted and scooped into the trucks; the miners leave large pillars to support the mine roof.
There are companies who lease space in the excavated mines for secure, very dry storage; their employees tend to get a, er, little odd. Too many long days underground without sunlight. Employees desperate for signs of outside life put up window frames on their walls and then fill the interior with day type pictures. One employee even had up a moose head over his desk.
That routing water idea from Canada sounds interesting to me. There are many dry lake beds in America’s West that could use a refresher; they’ve been lacking fresh water since after the last ice age.
And there are many folks in Utah and Nevada that might be interested in buying water from Canada and then reselling it to California. Significantly a large portion of Idaho and Southeastern Oregon are high desert.
High deserts are desert areas of significant altitude, in this case generally well above 3000 feet (914m); the kinds of deserts where it gets royally hot during the day yet can frost/freeze at night. The Bonneville Speedway area is at 4200 feet (1280m) altitude and is a very popular place for attempting speed records.
Idaho’s high desert is above 4000 feet (1220m), dry enough that Idaho would be interested in helping a water pipeline, and getting a share of water and money.
Before refrigerators caught on, business entrepreneurs would mine ice during the winter for resale during the summer. Perhaps it is not so unreasonable to send mining ships to Antarctica to bring back ice? That Turney turkey character would be a great fool, er, experienced adventurer to Antarctica for winter mining of ice…

Reply to  alcheson
October 1, 2014 6:00 am

Unless you have invented som new way to induce water to run upwards it will either (1) have to be a lot deeper than 30 m in the middle (2) pumped (which will require a lot more power than your hydro plant can produce, friction and losses you know) or (3) Be in a deep tunnel most of the way. A for the last I would not recommend trying to cross the San Andreas fault zone with a rock tunnel. Sure, it’s possible, but it would be enormously expensive.

September 30, 2014 11:34 pm

Eric, you need to update the status of Kurnell (Sydney); Although it is still operating at low capacity
Sydney’s (Kurnell) desalination plant has sat idle for two years, costing taxpayers $390 million. It is costing tax payers $534,246 a day to sit idle……..doing nothing.
Daily Telegraph, 24th August, 2014

Reply to  BruceC
September 30, 2014 11:54 pm

Just to add, not a single drop of water has come out of the Kurnell facility since July 1st 2012
Sydney Water’s managing director Kevin Young stated in Sept 2013;
“My best estimate is it will still be about four to five years before we turn the desalination plant on,”

October 1, 2014 12:05 am

I heard that harvesting water on the Gold Coast of Australia was banned because the local government wanted to make sure their project was well patronised and therefore financially viable.
Is this true?
If so, my advice to California is to make sure you harvest your own water.
By the way, harvesting water means catching water off your roof when it does rain. The bigger the tank the better.

Tim Neilson
October 1, 2014 1:43 am

Another thing California could learn from Australia is don’t let your dams fill up to over 90% because of CAGW “permanent drought” scares, or when the inevitable heavy rains come you’ll be devastated by floods like the unfortunate residents of Queensland courtesy of their genius Labor government.

October 1, 2014 2:57 am

“Desalination is particularly relevant to dry countries such as Australia, which traditionally have relied on collecting rainfall behind dams to provide their drinking water supplies. According to the International Desalination Association, in June 2011, 15,988 desalination plants operated worldwide, producing 66.5 million cubic meters per day, providing water for 300 million people.[4] Production is expected to reach 120 million m3 by 2020; some 40 million m3 is planned for the Middle East.[5] The world’s largest desalination plant, producing 640,000 m3 per day, is the Jebel Ali Desalination Plant (Phase 2) in the United Arab Emirates.[6] The largest percent of desalinated water used in any country is in Israel, which produces 40% of its domestic water use from seawater desalination[7]”

Reply to  richard
October 1, 2014 3:05 am

Well Australia really cocked up then didn’t it?

October 1, 2014 2:58 am

Two things come to mind.
No matter how much the climate chamges, the amount of water on earth will be all but constant. It can only change form and distribution. As it already does through decadal oscillators and such.
All megaprojects I’ve seen so far are cronies getting taxpayer funds to do something no entrepreneur would do. Solyndra and A123 are our examples, but even wind farms and solar. If they were actually worried about climate change, there are ways not to completely waste the money.

October 1, 2014 3:23 am

Maybe some of the more hydrologically or geologically inclined could comment on this, but are you folks familiar with a project they are trying to launch in India, where they plan on building a dam across a currently salt-water-filled bay/gulf, the Gulf of Khambat in the Indian state of Gujarat (whence the current PM hails as former “governor” [Chief Minister, I believe is the title state leaders have there ] ).
Overview at http://www.narendramodi.in/gujarat-all-set-to-create-world%E2%80%99s-largest-manmade-freshwater-reservoir-in-the-sea/
One advantage I see is that no new hectares of water-covered land are involved. I’m guessing they’ll be forfeiting a huge estuary of the types that usually form where brackish waters are mixed.
If it works, it could be pure genius. But will it?

Reply to  K-Bob
October 1, 2014 5:12 am

Like all such projects it has a massive environmental impact that is not easy to predict in advance.
The simple solution for California (lacking any major west flowing river systems) is of course, limit Californian population to what the available fresh water can support.
Or tax the water even more till people no longer want to live there, or until some form of artificial water supply becomes cost effective.

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 1, 2014 6:06 am

A good start would be to do like many cities in Arizona – prohibit lawns in LA, which are idiotic in a semi-arid climate in any case. And using water for irrigating golf-courses which are equally insane in a dry climate.

October 1, 2014 4:21 am

California, if they had a brain in their capital, would build lots and lots of nuke power plants by telling the typical greens it’s needed for desalting the oceans. Not only would it reduce the carbon foot/hand/finger prints of the Californians but it would allow “nature” to revert to it’s normal hydrologic state (aka, rain/snow). The electricity generated would be used to replace all those animal killing windmill and solar fryers while desalting the ocean and dumping the salt into the San Andreas. Then, some years from now, when flooding is a huge problem, the desalt plants which were never built, pending building the nuke power plants would have their funds switched to building synfuel plants. And thus, they would eliminate fracking altogether. Oh, and they could still build desalt plants – sort of a “forever” project to save the planet.

October 1, 2014 5:02 am

Last time I looked, the cost for fresh water via pipeline (new) in California was more than the cost from de-sal (also new). Land is very expensive in California and a large pipeline must go a very long ways to get water that isn’t already tapped…. We’ve already got pipelines or aqueducts over most of the State; so “new” water would have to come from…. well, a very long ways away. (As noted above, past the Coastal range of mountains, it is all desert all the time from Nevada, through Oregon and Washington and even up into Canada. Yes, I’ve been in Canada’s Desert. They are quite proud of it. Cactus and everything. If a bit cold…)
Also a factoid from a couple of decades back was that urban water usage was about 5% of the total. It is the farms growing tomatoes and cotton and orchards that consume the bulk of all water in the State. The history of water rights generally assures that if you had water before, you need to keep using it to keep having it…. So folks grow a lot of water demanding crops on effectively desert lands. (Thus the salt and selenium build up in Kern County and related… evaporating a LOT of water…)
So rather than offend some significantly powerful farming lobbies by stealing their water, the State has generally gone off to a mountain area far away from sight and stolen their water….
Latest iteration on the Peripheral Canal was to put the Sacramento River into a tunnel at about $10 Billion (starting price… to be inflated 4x to 10x after construction partially completed…) and ship it to L.A. Nice trick given the EPA and mandated fresh water flows out the delta…
Most reasonable thing to do is nuke driven de-sal plants ( ours work…) but California won’t do that. It will choose martyrdom instead… on the Green Altar…
Or just face up to the Central Valley farmers and their extraordinarily cheap water (nowhere near a market price, with politically set subsidized prices… though they did pony up to build the system so it really is ‘theirs’…) and “Show them the money”. Buy out 5/95 of their water and grow another L.A. in size… Would we really miss the Kern County cotton? Yet more cheap tomato sauce? (Leave the lettuce and avocadoes alone though! 😉
But that won’t happen either…

Don K
October 1, 2014 5:54 am

> Most reasonable thing to do is nuke driven de-sal plants ( ours work…)
Thanks to California’s geology, building nuclear powered anything on the coastal strip is something of an act of faith. I’m actually a fan of nuclear and I think our descendants a few centuries from now will probably be getting most of their energy from solar, nuclear and hydro with the remaining fossil hydrocarbons being used for petrochemicals..But that’s then and this is now. Frankly, nuclear plants built in a populous, tectonically active area whose geology we do not yet fully understand by the lowest bidder to politically negotiated standards and potentially managed by fools seem to me a dubious idea. 50 or 100 years from now … maybe

October 1, 2014 6:23 am

Water is never a problem, there is plenty of fresh water on the planet. The difficulty is catching it. For example Brisbane receives plenty of water to keep its two dams full, but we dont use it. The rain falls in the coastal strip east of the range, but the two water sources, lake Wivenhoe and Lake Sommerset are both located in a drier area west of the range. The runoff from brisbane’s streets and roofs does end up in pipes, but it is all just released into the Brisbane river and washed out to sea.
Really most places just need geographical diversity of sources, Perth Australia for example would be just fine with a water pipeline from the tropics and another fron the deep southwest for winter rains. California needs a feed from the north, and one from the tropics in the south, I’m sure Mexico would be happy to build some dams and export to California for a reasonable fee.

October 1, 2014 6:39 am

I believe we (Canada) have federal laws against exporting water. There was a proposal to fill tankers with BC water just before it poured into the Pacific, sail it California, sell it, drink it, let it pass through Californian kidneys into the Pacific. But even this zero-sum game was blocked by the government of the day and even today I don’t think you can even export boutique bottled water.
That leaves you with shared water resources like the Great Lakes and these are highly protected/contested. Keep in mind the Great Lakes are slowly losing water since the catch basin is nowhere near large enough to sustain them (they are 80+% post ice age melt water) so we protest every change you make to drainage (e.g. changes to the Chicago shipping canal). The good news for you: thanks to rebound in a few hundred years they will start draining into the Mississippi.

Coach Springer
October 1, 2014 6:59 am

Or they could move. Just not to Phoenix.

Gary Pearse
October 1, 2014 9:19 am

“Frankly I would consider building a pipeline, and importing the water.”
I suggested some months ago that, with all the water falling on the Pacific NW and abundant water from snow melt, a pipeline to California would seem feasible.

October 1, 2014 10:08 am

I know that the Carlsbad Plant has been mentioned in a couple of previous comments on this subject. I lived in Carlsbad (North San Diego County) for 28 years. I welcomed the plant to be built, because it seems to have been well-planned and well-designed after following its progress the past 10 years (after all the gloom and doom tree huggers said it would destroy the fish farm and ocean sea life next to it). You can track the progress here: http://carlsbaddesal.com/desalination-plant.
When we first moved to Carlsbad, my wife got a job with the city. And we naturally attended a city council meeting regarding the subject of the “30 year drought” we were “just emerging from” in San Diego County. That was 1985. My take on what the consultant to the city said way back then, was “despite the ocean next door, San Diego County is still desert”. The land, prior to development, was all scrub land, sandy, void of trees and each year during the Santa Ana winds, tumble weeds blew around everywhere. But during the decades, especially the 1980s, people tamed the land. Developers planted trees and put in ice plant everywhere. They even imported Eucalyptus trees from Australia (which grow very twisted in North America, they say because of the magnetic field in the Northern hemisphere affects them …not sure about that one, eh?). But the trees can survive on very little water. That entire county is and was basically desert next to an ocean. Same with LA.
So many citizens realized that over-growth and over-use of the Colorado River was indeed a serious problem. Hence that “30-year drought” got the city council thinking over the next decades, despite some good years every so often, of abundant rainfall. Let’s see if the better planning by the good City of Carlbad works.
So as not to tell everyone that desalination is bad, let’s blame the Australian government for irrationally hurrying desalination. When you hurry, especially with government-sponsored programs, it is typically a disaster with cost over-runs, poor design, poor planning, etc. Just look at Mr. Obama’s support of the Solyndra plant and all the other projects that make electricity at extermely high cost compared to natural gas and coal.

October 1, 2014 10:44 am

Imagine a world where the billions upon billions of dollars our governments have spent “researching” CAGW had gone to researching things like better desalination plans… err… well… if just a fraction of that money had gone to desalination research…
Instead a moron with no hair, a big brain and the athletic ability of a 20 year old poodle gets paid big bucks to talk about a broken hockey shtick.

October 1, 2014 11:35 am

Some points:
1) The “pipeline(s)” already exist (the Delta-Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct) in order that agribusiness in the Southern San Joaquin Valley can irrigate crops in a desert and the spares living in the LA Basin can fill their pools. If you doubt this, a quick grab-sample on Google Earth [118.267 W, 34.236 N] and “eye-altitude” at 1.07 km) shows about 50 pools. There are other areas with double that number – e.g. near Glendale.
2) Our – ahem – governor is intent upon running a tunnel or two under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to insure that so-Cal doesn’t get increasingly brackish water during dry periods when marine water pushes inland. The purported “reason” for this is to “protect” the Delta environment and threatened species like the Delta smelt, which were never at hazard until the state started shipping serious water south.
3) The “watering” of the Los Angeles basin is the direct cause of the desertification of the Owens Valley, as well as conflicts with the Imperial Valley farming interests in California, and other interests in Arizona and southern Nevada.
While working for the US Forest Service years (decades!) ago I worked with a former DWP employee who remarked that what lead to his quitting the DWP was actually experiencing the Owens Valley, which is now a desert, economically poor region solely because due to the seizure of most local surface water, including essentially the entire Owens River by LA DWP. According to him, the DWP had at least one speculative plan that considered transporting water south from the Yukon(!!!) ultimately to the Colorado where it would be stored behind Hoover Dam.

Gary Hladik
October 1, 2014 12:10 pm

Perhaps California and Australia (or better yet, entrepreneurs) could build smaller desal plants on ships or barges, and rent them to each other as needed. Rain in Oz, drought in Cal: send the barges east. Drought in Oz, rain in Cal: send them west.

george e. smith
October 1, 2014 2:55 pm

I understand that Saudi Arabian interests have been quietly buying up Southern California Mercedes Benz dealerships; maybe to eliminate car radios from Mercedes cars.
But the real reason is, that at the appropriate time in California’s totally unprecedented catastrophic drought desertification cataclysm, they plan to cash in on the exchange of Mercedes cars, for camels.

Andrew S
October 2, 2014 1:16 am

Tim Flannery – our former labor government hired and paid mouthpeice for climate change – told us it was never going to rain/flood again and our dams would always remain empty. He got paid over $300k per year to jet about the country scareing us and when it rained again and all the dams filled up he never battered an eyelid.

October 2, 2014 8:04 am

Boy, reading through all the comments above says one thing to me….California, yer hooped! Nobody seems to keen to let you suck them dry. Instead of the alarmista barking “climate change” I’m guessing (mind you) that they should be accepting “climate normalcy”….and figuring out the cost locally. No matter how you slice it, it’s gonna be hugely expensive.

October 2, 2014 10:26 am

Most of the Persian Gulf nations have had water desalination plants in place for decades. One would think the engineering problems would have been addressed long ago.

Reply to  JP
October 6, 2014 6:32 pm

“Most of the Persian Gulf nations have had water desalination plants in place for decades. One would think the engineering problems would have been addressed long ago.”
Understandable assumption but the reality is ANY water is better than none regardless of price or quality. They can’t manage something they don’t have….we can.

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