Adelaide Desalination Plant, South Australia, Australia

The plant covers about 50% of Adelaide's annual water supply

Adelaide's desalination project involved the construction of two 50gl capacity sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants and a 20km transfer pipeline. The A$1.83bn plant was constructed at Lonsdale, near Port Stanvac, located approximately 30km south of the Adelaide central business district (CBD). The plant is also known as Port Stanvac Desalination plant.

The plant is built on a 32ha site. Sponsored by the South Australian Government and SA Water, the plant is able to cover about 50% of Adelaide's annual water supply by delivering up to 100gl of water each year.

In August 2011, the Australian Government provided A$228m in funds towards the expansion of the plant to 100gl. The financing was part of the government's commitment of A$328m towards the project.

The first 50gl plant started delivering desalinated drinking water in July 2011 and the first water entered the state's water network in October 2011. The entire plant with 100gl (100 billion litres) of capacity was completed in December 2012.

Operation and maintenance of the transfer pipeline was handed over to the owner in May 2012 following a six month testing phase. The plant became fully operational in January 2013.

Background to the Adelaide desalination plant project

"In August 2011, the Australian Government provided A$228m in funds towards the expansion of the plant to 100gl."

The desalination plant at Port Stanvac was announced by the government of South Australia in December 2007. The environmental impact statement (EIS) was compiled in November 2008 and its assessment report (AR) was submitted in February 2009 by the Minister for Urban Development and Planning. A land deal for setting up the plant was signed in December 2009.

In April 2008, the state government chose SA Water to finance the project. Construction of the plant commenced in April 2009, while work on the desalination pipe project began in June 2009.

A pilot plant was built in late 2008 to study the desalination technology, process, water quality and the environment. After studying and collecting data, the pilot plant was decommissioned in February 2011. It was built by Water Technology Australia.

Design of the South Australian plant

The desalination plant was designed by Woodhead. The plant's integrated industrial design allows it to meet the requirements of architectural work.

This design approach was taken to deliver a unified, cohesive and sustainable design by integrating master-planning and architecture and landscape and interior design together. The plant was designed to have a low visual impact, from both close and long range views.

A transfer pumping station, transfer pipeline and a visitor centre are the other components of the project.

Designed as a public interface, the visitor centre has a glazed exhibition space, cantilevered roof forms and rammed earth walls. Renewable sources of energy are used to power the plant.

Purpose of Adelaide's project

More than one million residents and industrial and commercial offices of Adelaide are dependent on the Murray River for potable water supply. In recent years, the Murray-Darling Basin has experienced low flow water volumes due to climate change and severe drought in south-eastern Australia.

This situation prompted the South Australian government to construct the desalination plant to augment water supply.

This desalination plant is part of South Australia's water security plan, Water for Good. The plan released in June 2009 intends to secure the state's water future to 2050 and beyond.

Water treatment process

The plant uses reverse osmosis process to remove dissolved salts and impurities from ocean water. To make it suitable for drinking, the desalinated water is added with some beneficial compounds.

"Operation and maintenance of the transfer pipeline was handed over to the owner in May 2012 following a six month testing phase."

Desalinated water from the plant is stored in two storage tanks with a capacity of 25mgl each. Water from the two tanks located at Lonsdale flows by gravity into a pumping station, where it is transferred to Happy Valley through the transfer pipeline.

Lime is added to improve the taste of water and fluoride to meet Health SA requirements. Chlorine is added to disinfect the water as it is delivered to the Happy Valley Water Filtration Plant. Corrosiveness is reduced by adding carbon dioxide.

The desalinated water is then mixed with the treated water of Happy Valley Water Treatment Plant and finally connected to the network system of SA Water.

Contractors involved with the desalination plant

The project, consisting of the plant, associated marine works, a pumping station, transfer pipeline and a sub-station, was delivered by means of a design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) contract.

In February 2009, the South Australian government had awarded the DBOM contract to AdelaideAqua, a consortium of McConnell Dowell Constructors, Abigroup Contractors, Acciona Agua and Trility (formerly United Utilities Australia). This consortium is responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the plant for 20 years.

The 20km transfer pipeline was constructed by a joint venture of McConnell Dowell and Built Environs.

McConnell Dowell, Abigroup Contractors and Acciona Agua formed a joint venture to design and construct the plant and associated marine works. The operation and maintenance works were undertaken jointly by Acciona Agua and Trility.

In April 2009, the engineering design contract was awarded to SMEC. Technical studies and investigations were undertaken by Aurecon.

Water project

Related content

Wonthaggi Desalination Plant, Victoria, Australia

Wonthaggi desalination plant will be the largest in Australia.

Southern Seawater Desalination Plant (SSDP), Australia

The new plant is located at Taranto Road, north of Binningup, approximately 150km south of Perth.