Desalination Plant to fire back up for critical works

The Gold Coast Desalination Plant will be fired back up to full capacity this summer to allow for critical upgrades to one of South East Queensland’s most important water treatment plants.

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the desalination plant at Tugun was scheduled to provide up to 133 million litres– or the equivalent of 50 Olympic sized swimming pools ­­– per day into the SEQ Water Grid while the Mt Crosby plant is offline for the next stage of critical works.

“Queensland, like the rest of the world, is facing tough economic times ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Lynham said.

“We’re continuing to manage our health response and that means Queensland’s plan for economic recovery is already rolling out.

“The Mount Crosby will take more than two and a half years to complete and will generate up to 100 jobs.”

Since the February rainfall early this year the desalination plant has produced more than 1200 million litres of water to supplement SEQ drinking water while maintenance and upgrade works were undertaken.

The plant was also used during the 2019-20 financial year to increase water production in response to the drought.

In addition, maintenance works for the Molendinar and Mudgeeraba water treatment plants scheduled for 2021 means the desalination plant will be required to increase production to supplement local Gold Coast supply.

Dr Lynham said the $35 million filter upgrade at Mt Crosby East bank Water Treatment highlights the importance of the desalination plant beyond emergencies and extreme weather.

“Thanks to the foresight of previous Labor Governments, the SEQ water grid means the south-east corner has one of Australia’s most reliable water supplies,” Dr Lynham said.

“Having the desalination plant and the Water Grid available provides significant security of supply during times when we need to take major water treatment plants offline.

“It allows critical works to be undertaken in a cost-effective and efficient way.

“This is about being smart in how we use our water assets.”

The plant last operated at up to full capacity from November 2019 to January 2020 to help provide relief when the water grid dropped below 60 per cent capacity.

It has also been used to supplement Brisbane’s drinking water during floods in 2011 and 2013, which caused the Mount Crosby Water Treatment Plant to be shut down.

Gold Coast Desalination Plant facts

  • The desalination plant was built in 2010 and operates in ‘hot standby’ mode, ready to increase production if and when required. While in standby mode, it can reach 100 per cent capacity in 72 hours.
  • When running at 100 per cent capacity, the Gold Coast Desalination Plant can contribute 133 million litres of water a day (equivalent to 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools) to South East Queensland’s drinking water supplies.
  • The plant uses energy recovery devices to improve the energy efficiency of producing drinking water.
  • Seawater is filtered through a four-metre mushroom-like inlet structure on the seabed, one kilometre off the coast. Fish and marine animals are not drawn in, as the flow into the inlet is slower than the current.
  • The plant uses a process called reverse osmosis (RO), which forces the filtered sea water, at high pressure, through thousands of pressure vessels that contain semi-permeable membranes to remove all impurities, including salt and other minerals.
  • There are slightly less than 17,000 membrane elements at Gold Coast Desalination Plant.

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