Save our Gulf Coalition
Our position is developing as more facts are known
Download a copy of our position or read it below.
Download a copy of our Submission to the
Environment, Resources and Development Committee
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OUR GULF COALITION
SAVE OUR GULF COALITION (SOGC) – WHO WE ARE
are a community group concerned with environmental issues, and
particularly with the sustainability of St Vincent’s Gulf.
AIMS are to persuade the government and the community of South Australia
believes that a desalination plant on the Port Stanvac site poses
significant threats to the sea off the site, to the beaches there and to
the North and South– i.e. to Adelaide’s much loved metropolitan
beaches – and will do considerable damage to St Vincent Gulf.
It poses a real threat to the fishing and tourism industries.
believes that the proposed desalination plant is ill considered, costly
and environmentally damaging. We
believe that there are other approaches that will deliver water security
more cheaply, more securely and with additional social and environmental
are many unanswered questions about the costs of the desalination plant,
the cost and affordability of the water it will produce, and the
PORT STANVAC IS NOT
THE PLACE FOR A DESALINATION PLANT
desalination plant at the site of the Mobil oil refinery at Port Stanvac
will draw seawater from the Gulf into the plant, process it via reverse
osmosis, produce 50 GL of drinking water and discharge possibly 50 GL of
double saline water containing the equivalent of 1.85 Million tonnes of
pure salt back into the Gulf offshore of Port Stanvac every year.
Vincent’s Gulfs is a unique marine and coastal habitat, rich in
biological diversity with a higher number of unique species than the
Barrier Reef. They are also
heavily used by the South Australian community – by commercial
fishers, recreational fishers, for water sports, and very widely for our
much-loved beach culture, with its associated local tourism.
main risks to this environment from the desalination plant come from the
need to dispose of the brine discharge. This water will be twice as
salty as seawater, low in oxygen, much hotter than surrounding seawater
and highly alkaline.
is also the possibility of disturbance of already polluted layers of
sediment resulting from the activities of the now decaying, defunct oil
critical issue is being able to disperse the brine.
However there are grave concerns about the ability of this
discharge to disperse safely in the Gulf given it’s shallowness and
its pattern of tidal flows and currents. There are concerns that:
The brine will be trapped in the near-shore zone and slowly drift
northwards along the Adelaide coastline
The brine will accumulate during the dodge tide periods
(approximately every fortnight), spreading a thin layer of brine along
the sea floor. This will be
difficult to disperse even when stronger tides return.
In summer there is little flushing of the Gulf, so that
brine-laden water will get trapped within the Gulf, moving north,
clockwise and possibly trapping more brine along the eastern side of the
Gulf. (What about western currents anticlockwise movements)
are concerns that the impact of this brine will cause:
loss of sea grass – and its role as a marine nursery, production of
sand, and in controlling sand flows and minimising erosion;
the eggs of key food species, such as squid, and damage other
invertebrate species along the coast, with unknown impacts on the total
It is ironic that a major
habitat of the states marine emblem the leafy sea dragon will knowingly
be put at risk.
of blooms of blue-green algae along metropolitan beaches
Adelaide Coastal Waters Study (ACWS) (2008) identified St Vincent’s
Gulf as being under significant stress It found that the decline in sea
grass, with resultant sand movement and erosion, loss of marine breeding
grounds and fisheries habitat. The
Study made a number of recommendations designed to reduce future sea
grass loss and to eventually allow some recovery.
It’s first recommendation was to reduce the volumes of
wastewater, stormwater and industrial inputs into Adelaide’s coastal
environment. A desalination
plant at Port Stanvac goes against this recommendation by introducing a
new and very large source of pollution into the Gulf.
impacts on St Vincent’s Gulf would have major implications for the
commercial fishing industry, for recreational fishers, for all users of
the beaches and the waters of the Gulf – swimmers, surf lifesavers,
surfers, divers, and all the people who use the beach.
It would also impact on the amenity and property values of those
with coastal property.
plants built interstate are located where the brine can discharge into
open ocean. At Port Stanvac
a plant would discharge into an enclosed, shallow slow moving marine
environment, which is already suffering damage from excess storm and
wastewater run-off over the past 50 or more years.
the possible impact of the desalination plant at Port Stanvac, it is
worrying that the decision regarding the location of the Plant did not
seem to take into account available knowledge about the Gulf, its
currents and habitats. It
appears the Government’s Desalination Working Group made no proper
investigation of Port Stanvac as a suitable site; and it did not consult
the scientific expertise available in the Department of Environment and
Heritage’s Coast and Marine Branch.
SA Water, in declaring that the brine will be disposed well
offshore, does not appear to have taken account of accepted scientific
understandings of Gulf currents. It is even more concerning that the
Government has left the door open to increasing the size of the plant to
100 GL a year, when they have not yet identified the impacts of a 50 GL
plant has now been given Major Project Status raising further concerns
that environmental impacts will not necessarily get full consideration,
and that the timeframe may be too tight to allow them to be properly
A DESALINATION PLANT IS NOT THE ANSWER
budget for the proposed desalination plant is at least $1.1billion.
$96M has been allocated in the 2008 State budget for a pilot
plant. The plan will have a
sunk cost equal to around 1/3 of the State’s health or education
budgets for one year. There
may also be the cost of pipelines from the plant to Happy Valley, and
possibly from there to Hope Valley to connect with the northern
estimates are that the plant will produce 50 GL of water each year.
This is approximately 25% of Adelaide’s current average annual
water consumption. It is
likely that the plant will need to run continuously to ensure the
capital and operating costs are covered, regardless of variations in
Adelaide’s water needs and it is difficult to start and stop. In
addition, there are the costs of the power generation to run the plant,
estimated to be at least $30 million as well as potentially the
transmission capacity to get power to the site.
the next 5 years there is likely to be significant increases to the cost
of water to Adelaide households and businesses to cover these costs.
The interest alone will be around $90 million per annum at
The ACWS report indicates that stormwater recovery work (which will provide for Adelaides estimated water needs) will need to be undertaken anyway to allow the Gulf to recover, so we have the option of spending $400 million or $1.5 billion to achieve essentially the same outcome.
addition, the options of aquifer recharge and wastewater recycling has
not been explored and evaluated as viable options.
There are undoubtedly many more innovative options that have not been
opened up for public debate and costing.
most desirable option at this time is the combined reduction of
stormwater discharge via recovery and recycling and the subsequent
elimination of the need for a desalination plant.
from other desalination plants
is a growing body of evidence from desalination plants elsewhere in
the amount of salt produced as a by-product
The costs of operation
The impact on their surrounding environments
believe it is essential that this information should be evaluated and
put before both the State Government and the South Australian community
before a final decision is reached.
plants have a large carbon footprint, in their construction stage and
their operation. At a
period when Australia is being challenged to reduce its carbon impact,
and communities may be facing carbon reduction targets, this is not the
right direction. If desalination proceeds, the need to include its carbon
emissions in the State’s totals to be reduced will require much more
stringent reductions in other areas of South Australia’s activities
The plant has been declared Carbon Neutral but no mechanism has been provided or carbon footprint made public.
with the project
location of this plant in the Gulf poses a number of risks to the
economic well-being of the state.
commercial fisheries of the Gulf could be threatened by ecological
damage; in addition the recreational fishing industry, with the diving
and associated marine recreational industries, would be at risk of
ongoing destruction by both stormwater and brine.
impact on the seagrass and sand retention on our metropolitan beaches,
creates risk for loss of quality on our beaches and associated tourism
attractiveness and premium coastal housing values.
nature of the proposed plant is that it will need to run continuously
ensuring the costs both capital and operating are going to be incurred
even if the Murray recovers and the rainfall improves. It will be a sunk
cost and once spent is spent.
a number of distributed and integrated water recovery projects reduces
the risk of failure of the system as opposed to one major plant that can
be stopped by a fault or problem.
addition, if the true parameters of the intake water are not well
understood, there is the possibility of significant damage to the plant
and a massive expense blow-out that may be a recurring expense over the
life of the plant to repair the damaged filtration membranes.
cost of energy is predicted to increase in line with increased oil
prices; this will have an impact over time on the operating costs that
will further add to the high cost of the water.
have been produced including Water Proofing Adelaide, and extensive
computer modelling done for a comprehensive approach to securing
Adelaide’s water supply, even with lower average rainfall.
These focus on:
water and waste water recycling
would be captured and filtered in wetlands, pumped into aquifers, and
drawn out when needed. This
uses proven technology (Report for the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Natural
Resource Management Board, published by the Department of Water, Land,
Biodiversity and Conservation) and is part of the Waterproofing Adelaide
is a model in action at Salisbury Council (Reference).
Stormwater harvesting is estimated to be able to produce at least
80GL of drinkable water a year, for a cost of $400 million – i.e.
nearly double the amount water produced by the desalination plant at
one-third of the cost!
equates to a cost per K/L of one quarter of the desalinated water based
on a capital and deprecation cost of total of 10% PA.
stormwater harvesting policy would include:
The construction of up to 15 wetlands across Adelaide with
associated injection wells.
Expansion of the Glenelg-Adelaide pipeline.
Increasing the capacity of the pipe would allow greater use of
recycled water and the collection of stormwater harvested along the
Improved management of flood mitigation schemes, to harvest the
resultant stormwater instead of channelling it out to sea.
from providing for Adelaides water needs stormwater harvesting will
reduce the outflow of pollutants into the Gulf thereby improving the
marine and costal environment.. It
would also add to community amenity through the provision of wetlands
throughout the metropolitan area.
of Adelaide’s water infrastructure
fixing the leaky pipes to reduce significant leakage in the current
Adelaide’s water resources
encouraging reduced water use, through efficiencies, education in
changed practices, and other educational and social policy measures
(refer Thinkers in Residence report Cullen 2004)
IMPROVING THE PROCESS
is a community perception that the decision to place a major State asset
on the site of a contaminated, disused petroleum refinery has been made
without reference to the community and without clear, transparent
scientific and economic studies to examine the project and all the
remain significant questions about:
The nature and cost of any clean-up of the site;
The cost of operating the plant and the impact on water prices
for South Australians.
The amount of electricity required, where it is to come from, and
the impact of this on the cost of electricity for South Australian
users, and the availability of electricity supply for other major
potential large scale users in the future.
The nature of the arrangements with a private contractor
operating the plant, and the obligations these might impose on the South