Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Desalination - Part of the Problem

Just over 12 months ago the then Premier of Western Australia, Alan Carpenter, announced that his government was going to build the states second desalination plant in the tiny and politically insignificant town of Binningup, a couple of hours south of Perth.

Previously the government had looked at tapping into the Yaragadee Aquifer, an underground supply of fresh water underneath the states south west corner. This area (the Busselton area) is a pretty popular holiday spot and, compared to Binningup, more heavily populated. The decision to tap the aquifer was met with protest of the possible environmental impact of the decision and so, as a political hot potato, the plan was dropped.

Instead the Binningup desalination plant was announced.

There are a number of issues with the proposal.

Firstly, the location; the area slated for the plant is virgin coastal bushland. It is earmarked for future residential development but is currently untouched and is home to various endangered species of birds, reptiles, plants and marsupials.

Secondly, the process itself; desalination (or at least the process to be implimented in Binningup) is an energy-hungry process. It is also a polluting process in that it pumps tons of hypersalinated (i.e. super concentrated salty water) back into the ocean along with other nasty chemicals in concentrated form.

Thirdly, it's short sighted; Yes, we have a water shortage that is probably only going to get worse, yet rather than simply increasing the amount of water available, we should be looking at ways of changing our cultural dependance on water. The same water that is wasted by heavy industry and wasted on water-hungry private and public gardens. Adding a dirty, energy hungry solution into the mix is only going to provide a short term answer to the problem. In realising this, the government also plans to build a second stage of the Binningup plant at some later date, doubling production.

My internet connection is playing up and I can't access the pages I am thinking of, but if you Google "desalination" you'll find plenty of references on the net. You can also join the "Say No to Binningup Desal Plant" group on Facebook. Here's one link I could access - it'll take you to the local action groups website, there are news updates and other links there.

But, most importantly, if you see the kind of desalination plant proposed at Binningup as a problem now is a great time to let your local politicians know about it (particularly if you live in Western Australia). We have a new state government in place, and even though they have said they are going to follow through with the development of the Binningup site, now is a good time to lobby them and let them know you are opposed to it and why. The more people from outside the Binningup area that make a fuss, the more likely it is the government will listen.

If you're around Binningup on Saturday, the local action group is having a stall at the annual Binningup Spring Carnival. You could drop by and find out more.

This kind of thinking is the same kind of short sighted thinking that, if not nipped in the bud, adds to the greater global environmental problem one small step at a time. This may be one small plant, but you get enough of this small scale industry in politically insignificant areas and it all adds up to a much bigger problem, the results of which are difficult, if not impossible to reverse.

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