REVEALED: Cost of a desalination plant for Byron Shire

A DESALINATION plant to turn five mega litres of sea water into drinkable water per day via reverse osmosis would cost $54 million to build.

Ganden Engineers and Project Managers completed the feasibility assessment for Rous County Council as a future extra water supply option for the region.

The plant estimated as the most likely and financially viable would be located in Byron Bay, to support the Byron Shire water demand only.

Two other possible locations, in Ballina and Lennox Head, were deemed not financially feasible.

With a current population of more than 35,000 inhabitants, the Byron Shire currently requires 8.4ML a day. The study projected a population of 44,000 and a demand of 11ML a day by 2036.

Since the plant would only have a capacity of 5ML a day, it would need to be upgraded to 10ML by 2035, with extra costs incurred.

The preferred site identified was adjacent to the existing sewage treatment plant on Wallum Place, between Belongil and Tyagarah.

 

A proposed desalination plant for Byron Bay would be located within Byron Bay's Integrated Water Management Reserve in Wallum Place.
A proposed desalination plant for Byron Bay would be located within Byron Bay's Integrated Water Management Reserve in Wallum Place.

 

This location was selected due to its proximity to the nearby electrical infrastructure, and its ability to relatively easily supply the treated water to the St Helena Reservoir.

This reservoir would have the ability to supply Suffolk Park, Byron Bay, Ocean Shores, Brunswick Heads and Bangalow via the existing reticulation network.

Among the benefits a future Byron Bay desalination plan would provide, the report indicated that Rous could use the facility to react to additional water demand during seasonal events and tourism influxes.

Some negatives identified were the high cost of the scheme and that Tyagarah Nature Reserve runs along coast, highly sensitive to erosion. Cultural and social sensitivities were also acknowledged.

According to the report, there were advantages and disadvantages for desalination versus a fresh water source, like a possible Dunoon dam.

"Construction of a new fresh water source (such as a new dam or bore water system) does not offer the resilience that a seawater desalination plant or recycled water treatment plant offers to a community during prolonged periods of drought," the report stated.

Negatives to desalination options were also identified.

"Cost of providing recycled water to households is prohibitive," the document said, plus the fact that the brine (salt) left from the desalination process is "hard to dispose of".

The document is part of Rous County Council's proposed Future Water Project 2060 - a $245 million plan to future-proof the community's drinking water supplies for the next 40 years, currently on public exhibition by Rous County Council.

 

 

A proposed desalination plant for Byron Bay would be located within Byron Bay's Integrated Water Management Reserve in Wallum Place.
A proposed desalination plant for Byron Bay would be located within Byron Bay's Integrated Water Management Reserve in Wallum Place.