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Planning approval granted for desalination plant, pipeline

This week, the New South Wales Government approved Hunter Water‘ s plans for a desalination plant at Belmont as a drought response measure.    

The plans are a reaction to water storage levels in the Lower Hunter, which recently reached its lowest point in nearly 40 years.  

The plant is designed to produce up to 30 million L of drinking water per day in response to drought.   

This follows in the wake of the most recent drought of 2019-2020, which saw the introduction of water restrictions for the first time in decades.   

The Hunter Water team worked closely with the NSW Government, key stakeholders, and the local community, and planning approval was issued yesterday by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.  

The desalination plant, once constructed, will receive direct ocean seawater intake by piping seawater from 1 km offshore.  

The intake structure would be installed at a depth of approximately 20 m, extending 5 m above the ocean floor, and the pipeline will be installed under the ocean floor via a trenchless tunnelling method. 

Hunter Water Managing Director Darren Cleary said desalination is one of the few water supply options that is not dependent on rainfall.  

This would mean that with the construction of a desalination plant, Hunter Water could continue to supply communities irrespective of changes in weather or climate.  

While the likelihood of having to construct the plant is low, it was imperative that Hunter Water sought planning approval, should it need to build in the near future.  

“Planning approval for the Belmont desalination plant gives us an additional tool to help close our supply gap during periods of drought, providing Hunter Water with the capacity to provide up to an additional 30 million L of water each day,” said Mr Cleary.  

Hunter Water said the project approval was supported by comprehensive environmental impact investigations, which evaluated the potential impacts that could be mitigated through detailed design and delivery.  

These assessments found that a trenchless method would have the least significant impact on marine life, while the intake would also be designed to reduce the chance of marine life being drawn into the pipeline.  

Construction of the desalination plant could take three years.  

For more information visit the Hunter Water website 

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