Saturday, 13 July 2013

Agnes Water desal plant a major first for CQ

This made page 1 and 3 of this week's edition of the Queensland Telegraph here    It follows on from the recent debate about the virtues of reverse osmosis plants as proposed for treating CSG excess contaminated water.
The pristine waters of Bustard Bay, home of  CQ's first ocean desalination plant at Agnes Water near the township of 1770.

By John Mikkelsen

CENTRAL Queensland now has its first ocean desalination plant, with taps soon to flow fresh water from the sea at Agnes Water.

The $40 million plant is in the final commissioning stages for Gladstone Regional Council, after five years of battling protestors and Mother Nature.

Initially it is expected to meet about half of the small community’s water needs in coming months, with cheaper existing underground supplies providing the remainder. 

Boasting Queensland’s most northern surf beach and a thriving tourism industry, Agnes Water overlooks the pristine waters  of Bustard Bay first explored by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770.

A section of the $40 million desal plant.

Gladstone Regional Council inherited the scheme from the former Miriam Vale Shire  in 2007 following the Beattie Labor government’s forced amalgamations. When it decided to press ahead with the desalination plant and sewerage treatment project rather than risk losing a $27 million State subsidy, a determined protest was launched based on environmental concerns and claimed exorbitant costs.

THE Community Over Desalination (COD) protest group fought the long campaign with the backing of former member for Burnett Rob Messenger, claiming the site between Agnes Water and Deepwater National Park would place a nesting beach for endangered loggerhead turtles at risk.

However this was denied by council and the Bligh government, with construction starting in January 2010 after studies ruled out alternative schemes including a costly pipeline from Gladstone’s Awoonga Dam..

It was claimed that dwindling underground supplies would be unable to meet the growing community’s needs. During the  desal plant’s planning stages, scientists including chief  climate change  commissioner Tim Flannery were warning Australia’s prevailing drought would never end and major rivers would cease flowing.

The same claims inspired the Bligh government to press ahead with the state’s other major multi- million dollar desal plant at Tugan on the Gold Coast, a recycling plant and hundreds of kilometers of pipelines linking storages in South East Queensland.

Irony prevailed when record floods occurred  in late 2010, 2011 and again this year, filling dams and replenishing underground supplies including those at Agnes Water.

Council CEO Stuart Randle yesterday said  the new desal plant was expected to meet the community’s needs for six months of the year, with cheaper underground supplies providing the remainder.

He told the Telegraph total cost of water and electricity when the plant was at full capacity was expected to be about $2 a kilolitre.

“The desal plant option was chosen by the Miriam Vale Council in 2007 when the existing town supply was under stress and population growth was very strong.
“Since that time the population growth has stalled and successive good wet seasons have replenished the aquifer.

“The result is that the town is currently able to be serviced from the much cheaper groundwater supplies. The next drought and renewed interest in the Agnes Water region will change that at some time”.

Mr Randle said the present commissioning process was “complex” and would include cleaning of the inlet lines using specialist contractors.

“ Once that is complete the process moves into the acceptance testing phase which will take a further month to complete”.

TRILITY, a water infrastructure management firm, will operate the plant on council’s behalf.

“ It will be paid for fixed and variable costs, much the same way that phone bills are separated into line rental and call charges. The fixed portion is shared across the service connections so, as the community grows, the plant will become more cost effective.

 “The variable cost of treating seawater at full capacity, excluding electricity, is about 24 cents per kilolitre. The cost of electricity at present equates to about 50 cents per kilolitre.Total cost of production at full capacity is expected to be around $2.00 per kilolitre”.

Cr Ren Lanzon told The Telegraph he had inspected a similar ocean desalination plant during a recent visit to his homeland of Malta, and he did not envisage environmental problems.

“The outflow of the plant fell from a cliff face into the sea, giving  the Maltese a rare sight, a waterfall.

“The famously Blue Mediterranean is about three times more salty than our blue Pacific. Oddly it's still a favourite fishing spot for the Maltese. Apparently the fish don't mind the mineral outflow from the plant,” Cr Lanzon said. 


  1. "It follows on from the recent debate about the virtues of reverse osmosis plants as proposed for treating CSG excess contaminated water."
    This debate can be found in the comment section of a previous post on this site, Wyoming: Aftermath of a Drilling Boom

    It's my belief that reverse osmosis is far more efficient in the removal of salts from sea water rather than application for coal seam gas produced water because of the amount of cations found in CSG water.

  2. It is also fairly expensive Dale, as can be seen from the above anticipated costs.

  3. We also get a variety of the black cockatoo here on the coast too Dale, either A or more likely G in the pics, Dale. They appear regularly once a year in Spring and move along the line of she-oaks above the dunes from the north to the south, systematically stripping acorns and twigs from the branches. The trees don't seem any the worse and I suspect it's part of nature's regenerative process. But they do it one tree at a time, then disappear somewhere to the south doing the same as they progress.

  4. We get the yellow-tailed black cockatoos - they come at different times of the year, hang around for a few weeks and then disappear again. I don't know what attracts them but they arrive 3-4 times per year.

  5. One of the varieties of Black Cockatoo lives primarily on termites and they rip old trees and termite nest infested with "white ants" apart to get at the prized food inside.

    Here at Mt Larcom we get Black cockatoos on a regular basis. They cone to get the fruit of the Burdekin Plum tree in the back yard and sometimes have a crack at the Macadamia nuts. The sulphur crested cockatoos like the Macadamias too and they bith crack the nuts in their beaks.
    Bloody hell, I would not like to get a finger in the beak of one of those.

  6. Hey not sure how or why I posted a comment about the black cockatoos here and you guys followed (like a flock of galahs :0)

    I thought I was commenting on Dale's cocky pics post. But Peter the beak sure looks and is powerful but when you get a tame one you could put your finger in it and worst you would get is a playful nip. At least mine was like that. You wouldn't want to pick up a wild one tho.

    1. Cos we are like a pack of galahs. One takes off and the whole bloody lot take off and don't even ask why.


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