By Michael Giles

THE Victorian Desalination Plant at Wonthaggi has the potential to produce 150 billion litres (gigalitres) of water a year, with the potential to expand to 200 billion litres.
Presently Melbourne’s water supply is sitting at 53 per cent of capacity, despite the addition of 46 gigalitres from the desal plant last financial year.
For this year, from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 the state government has ordered a further 125GL and you’d have to think, with Melbourne due to overtake Sydney as the nation’s biggest city in 2026, that more and more water will need to come from the Wonthaggi plant.
So where does that leave South Gippsland Water customers?
Our local water authority has the option of buying up to 5GL of water from the Victorian Desalination Plant. It has already secured 1GL per annum by paying a fee of $400,000, so it can decide to take an additional 1GL, 2GL, 3GL or 4GL but must decide by 2024.
Presently we have enough water in our own storages, together with the extra gigalitre we’ve purchased, to provide for another 10 years but with usage growing at a rate of 1GL per decade, we need to consider the future beyond that.
But do we throw our lot in with Melbourne Water? Is there even an alternative? It’s a tough question for the average person in the street to answer but a layman’s response would be to make a choice that’s cost-effective and offers firm security of supply but with a plan B, C and D if the deal with Melbourne Water turns sour in the face of increasing demand from Melbourne.
There’s little doubt that Melbourne’s voracious appetite will continue to grow, and with a popular aversion to creating more dams, it may well be that we’ll be selling water back into the system if we decide to take the maximum entitlement offered to us.
And the taste? We’ll never know the difference.
Given the solution famously rejected by Toowoomba in Queensland, adding recycled water to their drinking supply during the millennium drought… it’s got to be better than that!