Plans to mothball Adelaide’s $2.2 billion desalination plant may be scrapped because it might be cheaper to keep it running.
The government had planned to put the plant on ice from next year after modelling showed it was unnecessary to meet short-term water demand.
But Acting Water Minister Leon Bignell says shutting down the plant could leave taxpayers exposed to massive restart costs when it is eventually needed. He said SA Water would keep the plant running at minimum production for a three-month trial to determine whether it would be cheaper than starting from scratch at a later date.
The government will then decide whether to keep the plant running for an extended period. Mr Bignell said the costly plant would eventually pay off despite its current lack of use.
“Everyone was screaming out for it six years ago and, of course, the rain didn’t come,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“But be assured, we will have dry years ahead and this will be seen as one of the most important pieces of infrastructure that this state has ever built.”
Opposition spokeswoman Michelle Lensink said the planned trial was an exercise in poor planning.
“For it to be continuing in this way, as an experiment that all South Australian households have to pay for, is really quite incredible,” she said.
The opposition has argued the 100 gigalitre plant is too large for the state’s needs and has placed further pressure on water prices.