Sydney water bills on verge of $40 increase as NSW Government prepares to switch on desalination plant
The State Government is poised to turn on Sydney’s desalination plant for the first time, in a move which will increase water bills by almost $40 per customer.
- Sydney’s desalination plant will be turned on when dam levels drop below 60 per cent
- They are currently at 60.9 per cent
- Turning it on comes at a cost — $38 will be added to every Sydney Water customer’s bill
It will be the first time the plant in Kurnell, which was opened in 2010, will be officially put to use.
“I think Sydney will always debate whether it’s a good investment, but the fact is we’ve got it and now it’s a bit like an insurance policy,” Utilities Minister Don Harwin said.
After years of Sydney’s drinking water storage levels being high, they have dropped dramatically over the past year due to the drought crippling Australia’s eastern states.
The levels now sit at 60.9 per cent — this time last year they were at 81 per cent.
As soon as the levels drop below 60 per cent, the multimillion-dollar plant will be switched on.
When it’s on the plant can provide 15 per cent of Sydney’s drinking water, turning seawater into 250 million litres of drinking water a day.
But it does come at a cost.
While the plant lies dormant, Sydney Water customers pay about $87 dollars a year as part of their water bill.
That increases to around $125 when the plant becomes active.
“The Government can do lots of things but we can’t make it rain, in a drought we’ve got an insurance policy and that’s desal and like any insurance policy there’s a small cost involved,” Minister Harwin said.
“We don’t really want that but it’s better than running out of water.”
Right now the recent rain has been holding off a price hike in water bills, but it seems likely the plant will operate by the end of the summer.
The plant has technically provided drinking water before.
When it was first commissioned in February 2010, it operated for two years to complete testing.
But it has not been on since mid-2012 and has undergone repairs after it was damaged in a storm in 2015.
The Government insists all testing on the plant has been completed and is ready to go as soon as it’s needed.