13 August 2008

Desalination - a Megaproject ! or Water Conservation and Whales

Today's news of the construction of a 16-storey drilling platform off Kurnell, Cape Solander assured us that "The six-month operation will..not have any impact on migrating whales. I have every confidence the whales will swim around it..There will be no impact on the residents of Kurnell"

Will the whales still make it past Manly?
Could Manly become another 'Kurnell'?

Once water conservation is off the agenda, the high cost and high energy option of desalination plants appears to be the only way to continue unsustainable practices on the driest continent. The environmental costs, apart from turning the sea/shore into an industrial zone (image) are carried by the wildlife and its biome.

The following reading list is highly recommended on topics that will not disappear in our life-time:

Desalination projects & transparency:
Phil Dickie of melaleuca media investigatives the options of desalination plants in "Making Water - Desalination option or distraction for a thirsty word" 0707 for WWF’s Global Freshwater Programme. "The first global survey of desalination from a non-industry perspective"
(pdf) Regarding Australia:

"All of the areas where seawater desalination is rapidly assuming a more prominent water supply role had more cost effective and less potentially environmentally damaging alternatives available. This is particularly true of demand management, water conservation and water efficiency measures, where many of even the more advanced economies such as Australia do not uniformly require easily achievable water and energy efficiency standards in new buildings."
Megaprojects & Transparency:
Bent Flyvbjerg, on megaprojects, Chapter 1 of his book Megaprojects and Risk: An anatomy of Ambition, by Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, and Werner Rothengatter (Cambridge University Press, 2003). Some of his interests are transparency in policy planning and strategic misrepresentation wrt megaprojects.

- Towra Point Nature Reserve, Kurnell
- Botany Bay National Park
- NSW Fisheries - Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve
- Amid Water Shortage, Australia Looks to the Sea, Patrick Barta, The Wall Street Journal, 110308
- Ecotoxicological marine impacts from seawater desalination plants, Rachid Miriaand Abdelwahab Chouikhib, Desalination and the Environment Volume 182, Issues 1-3, 1 November 2005, Pages 403-410
- Environmental impacts of water desalination along the coastal region of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (pdf) (environmental impacts and noise pollution)
- Sydney Water, Desalination Factsheet
- Riverkeepers fighting to not mush up the "small aquatic organisms into the cooling mechanism; the resulting impingement and entrainment from these operations kill or injure billions of aquatic organisms every year." (pdf)
- Protests against desalination in Victoria, abc 140708
- Scorched Earth for water plant we might not need, SMH, 0807 (Great image of the 'scorched earth' near
Towra Point Nature Reserve!)

Image: GoogleMaps, Cape Solander , Kurnell, (NB note the ocean colour, approx. 2007)

Update 210808
- Plans to dredge Botany Bay as part of a $1 billion port expansion, taking 60 hectares of land to construct five new shipping berths. abc 190808
Update 300808
- "Australia could be using 400 per cent more energy to supply its drinking water by 2030 if the policy trend towards seawater desalination were to continue...seawater desalination was likened to a petrol-guzzling "six cylinder" family car by one of Australia's top water bureaucrats at a major summit in Melbourne." The Age 290808
- On offshore drilling platforms in the coastal path of hurricanes, the ecological and economic damage. Science Daily 290808
- What's the Deal With Offshore Drilling? Will it do any good at all? Jacob Leibenluft, Slate, 120808 (A good overview of the environmental impacts of offshore industrial activities)
Update 091008
- Peak Energy also was concerned about the impact on the sea dragons at Kurnell.
- Water and Desalination Factories by M. Barlow, Environmental Folly
- Climate-caused acidity of oceans, creates a noisier environment for whales, apart from the construction and operation noise of such a large infrastructure (click graphic!)

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