In response to prolonged drought, large desalination plants have been built in Australia's major cities over the last decade. This paper identifies those plants and focuses on the context surrounding the decision to build the plant in Sydney. Whilst a portfolio approach allowed lower cost options for secure supply to be identified – including an innovative 'desalination-readiness option' – perceived uncertainty and political decisions led the state government to build the desalination plant before the carefully considered planning triggers dictated and without revisiting the decision when the drought broke. Media analysis is used to construct a timeline of reported headlines relating to the pre- and post-construction periods including events surrounding heavy rain, overflowing dams and dialogue on desalination being unnecessary and expensive. The paper highlights a disconnect between the planning processes, stakeholder and community engagement and political decision-making. Given desalination is now an embedded feature of water supply in most major Australian cities, scenarios are used to assess the potential role of desalination
in the future urban water landscape and broader economy.
Fane, T.G. & Fane, S.A. 2005, 'The role of membrane technology in sustainable decentralized wastewater systems', Water Science And Technology, vol. 51, no. 10, pp. 317-325.
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Decentralized wastewater treatment has the potential to provide sanitation that meets criteria for sustainable urban water management in a manner that is less resource intensive and more cost effective than centralized approaches. It can facilitate water
Fane, S.A., Robinson, J. & White, S. 2003, 'The use of levelised cost in comparing supply and demand side options for water supply and wastewater treatment'', Water Supply, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 185-192.
This paper explores the use of levelised cost in planning for infrastructure networks. Levelised cost provides a useful measure comparing supply or conservation options on varying scales on an equivalent basis. Comparison is made to annualised cost, a metric often used as a means of comparing different supply side options. Urban water supply is used as the primary example, however levelised cost is equally applicable to other infrastructure networks, such as electricity or gas. The levelised cost is calculated as the ratio of the present value of projected capital and operating cost of an option to the present value of the projected annual demand supplied or saved by the option. The paper demonstrates that levelised cost is the constant unit cost of supply, provided by an option at present value. It is also the average incremental cost of the option at the point of implementation. When translated to a unit cost, annualised cost does not account for unutilised capacity in large scale schemes, systematically under-representing actual costs. By using levelised cost this inherent bias is removed. Use of levelised cost would facilitate the inclusion of smaller scale and more incremental supply options into infrastructure networks providing both economic and environmental benefits.
Fane, S.A., Ashbolt, N.J. & White, S. 2002, 'Decentralised urban water reuse; the implications of system scale for cost and pathogen risk', Water Science and Technology, vol. 46, no. 6-7, pp. 281-288.
he non-potable reuse of treated sewage in urban areas provides significant conservation of potable supplies beyond that available through water use efficiency. Effluent reuse is also an inevitable requirement in novel decentralised wastewater systems. At present, urban water reuse, where pursued, usually involves large-scale schemes based on new or existing centralised sewage treatment plants. This is despite the diseconomy of scale inherent in pipe networks that balances economies of scale in sewage treatment and negates any cost advantage for wastewater systems with more than around 1,000 connections. In light of this, the theoretical relationship between effluent reuse system scale and pathogen risks was examined at various effluent qualities. Waterborne disease was seen to be a significant factor when reusing effluent in urban areas and smaller systems were found to pose a lower risk of waterborne infection, all other things being equal. Pathogen risks were then included within an economic analysis of system scale. It was concluded that with the inclusion of pathogen risks as a costed externality, taking a decentralised approach to urban water reuse would be economically advantageous in most cases. This conclusion holds despite an exact evaluation of increased waterborne disease due to effluent reuse remaining problematic
White, S. & Fane, S.A. 2002, 'Designing cost effective water demand management programs in Australia', Water Science and Technology, vol. 46, no. 6-7, pp. 225-232.
This paper describes recent experience with integrated resource planning (IRP) and the application of least cost planning (LCP) for the evaluation of demand management strategies in urban water. Two Australian case studies, Sydney and Northern New South Wales (NSW) are used in illustration. LCP can determine the most cost effective means of providing water services or alternatively the cheapest forms of water conservation. LCP contrasts to a traditional approach of evaluation which looks only at means of increasing supply. Detailed investigation of water usage, known as end-use analysis, is required for LCP. End-use analysis allows both rigorous demand forecasting, and the development and evaluation of conservation strategies. Strategies include education campaigns, increasing water use efficiency and promoting wastewater reuse or rainwater tanks. The optimal mix of conservation strategies and conventional capacity expansion is identified based on levelised unit cost. IRP uses LCP in the iterative process, evaluating and assessing options, investing in selected options, measuring the results, and then re-evaluating options. Key to this process is the design of cost effective demand management programs. IRP however includes a range of parameters beyond least economic cost in the planning process and program designs, including uncertainty, benefit partitioning and implementation considerations.