back to article Dinosaurs derail desalination drive Down under

A fossilised spanner has been thrown into the works of plans for Australia's largest desalination plant, as a hoard of dino-remains has been uncovered on the beach near the proposed site. The plant, intended to protect Melbourne from drought, was being built at a cost of A$3bn, but the dinosaur discovery has put its future in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Desalination a good idea

    Desalination is a great idea even massive scales beyond this scheme if they can be powered from renewable which given the weather in Oz they could easily be with, sterling engine solar power, photovoltaic farms, solar towers with high pressure steam storage for energy release at night etc etc.

    In fact on a truly huge scale they could use it for irrigation not just population.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you sure about those numbers?

    150 000 000 000 liters per year.... that's

    410 677 618 liters per day (on a 4-year basis)

    17 111 567 liters per hour

    285 193 liters per minute

    4 753 liters per second

    That's a lot of water to process....


  3. yeah, right.


    Desalination has the problem that once the water is extracted, the remains need to be washed back out to sea. So you get higher and higher concentrations of toxins, minerals and salts around the plant and down-current.

    Still, probably necessary, but I certainly wouldn't want to live anywhere near one of these things.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Desalination is NOT a good idea

    Desalination on a large scale like this leads to massive amounts of hazardous waste; the concentrated sea water that remains. Hazardous in a sense that it can't be simply pumped back into the sea, it's lethal to many creatures and it can upset natural processes that rely on salinity etc being 'normal'.

    Desalination also uses massive amounts of power (although I have not checked specifics for this project) I suspect far more than any dedicated renewable source will provide.

    The supply of fresh water is a massive, and growing, problem though. Governments should be very concerned as natural reserves of fresh water (mountain ice, groundwater, lakes etc) are all reducing.

    The plant may be necessary at the moment, I hope that better alternatives arrive soon though.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The numbers

    Well, assuming that Melbourne is a city of approximately 4 Million souls by 2011 when this capacity is due, that's only 100 litres per person per day. A few flushes, a shower, some laundry, people who wash the car for a couple of hours on the weekend. Sounds about right to me.

    Anyway, it's what their own white paper says:

  6. Anonymous Coward

    @Are you sure about those numbers?

    Not sure where the billion value comes from but your calculations could be off by 3 orders of magnitude. It would help if they would just use mathematical notation or the standard prefix so was that 150 gigaliters or teraliters?

  7. davcefai

    Not impossible

    Say one membrane can process 20,000 litres per hour. That's a plant with at least 855 membranes, call it 1000. Big, but doable if you have the power.

    Call it the water treatment equivalent of a large data-centre.

  8. Charles Manning

    Not much

    410 Mlitres per day is not very much. That's only approx 105 l per day for Melbourne's 3.9M population. Australian domestic water use is approx 300l per person per day (+ commercial etc). So this desalination plant will only provide 20% or so of their needs.

  9. JeffyPooh

    It's only...

    ... 4.753 cubic meters per second.

    The facilities I've seen on the usual TV science shows are full-to-the-rafters of huge racks holding endless rows of large cannisters containing the special membranes. A few cubic meters per second seems perfectly reasonable. Wouldn't be worth doing if it was any less.

    I say more of this sort of thing. Especially if powered by renewable energy. If dinosaur bones are the only downside, then geesh...

  10. Glenn Crawford

    The numbers are what they're pushing

    Yup, those are the numbers they are pushing for the desal plants here in Australia.

    They tend to gloss over the extra-ordinary amount of power needed to run the things though - and it won't be renewable power either, it comes straight from the coal-burning power stations.

    There's a big push by the eastern states governments at the moment to put desal plants everywhere - even though there are more environmentally friendly ways of getting more water, but nobody wants to look at recycling water - drinking water that's already been "used" - icky! Sheesh, where do they think we get the water from in the first place....

    Unfortunately anonymous coward, as I said it won't be powered by renewable energy. So far the gov. has tried to turn as much a blind eye as possible to renewable energy, too much $$$ and too many jobs rely on the coal industry :-\

  11. Mike Hocker

    Fossilized Spanner

    Hmm. So the dinosaurs really were intelligent eh? Be reading about that fossilized spanner in Nature any year now-- tho El Reg has broken the news first!

  12. Lloyd


    But doesn't it chuck it down all the time in Melbourne anyway?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why then....

    Are we not seeing this in Africa?

    Also if we nick water from the sea, will this help with rising sea levels due to Global Warming?

  14. Anne van der Bom

    If it's for a city

    Look at it from the other way:

    150 billion litres is 150 millon m3, enough for roughly 2 million homes. That's the numbers you need if you're talking about providing for a city like Melbourne.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes. It's a lot of water to process.

    "A $3.1 billion desalination plant in the Wonthaggi region including an 85km pipeline to connect the plant to Melbourne’s drinking water supplies will provide an additional 150 billion litres of water each year by the end of 2011.

    "The plant will be the largest in Australia and will provide around a third of Melbourne’s yearly water needs without relying on rainfall into our catchments.

    "Greenhouse emissions from the plant will be offset by the purchase of renewable energy, making the plant carbon neutral."

    The project details are at

  16. Chris G

    Numbers good

    The numbers are fine Greater Melbourne has a population approaching the 4 million mark, the average person uses upwards of 100 litres/day that's 146 billion litres / year. No room for expansion or manufacturing. Probably they need to start on a second one right away.

    On the question of waiting to build on the fossil site it's a difficult call, on the one hand you have something rare and important scientifically that has been waiting a hundred and fifty million years to be found and unlikely to survive the construction work and on the other hand you have a country that is truly desperate for fresh water. Toss a coin on that one.

  17. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Desalination is a great idea but the technologies to do it efficiently and well arent here yet. This plant will consume huge amounts of electricity (coal generated electricity), create huge amounts of hazardous waste products and is just a bad idea period.

    Until the amounts of energy needed to conduct desalination are reduced and the ability to turn the waste products into usable items is achieved, desal is not a good idea!

  18. Joe

    Hang on...

    1) Because of greenhouse gases, there's global warming.

    2) Because of global warming, there's less fresh water.

    3) So build a coal-powered desalination plant to get fresh water.

    4) Belch more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

    5) Make some political speech about buying carbon credits, or some such nonsense.

    6) Return to step 1.

    Is that right?

  19. Gower

    both sides of the story and some numbers

    Good to see a rational thread of comments with both sides of the story being discussed and the number geeks a crunching,

    The enviromental impact is pretty big but I guess it needs to be considered in relation to the impact on the country, if the drought is not broken... we have the raw fossil fuel to power it, we don't give a crap about the enviroment, we do want to support our farmers, we like making money, therefore its a go on the desalination plant I agree with recycled water options but only for the English.

  20. The Aussie Paradox

    Talking of numbers...

    Can someone please explain, I do not understand those numbers they quote. Can someone please translate it into Swimming Pool units, Sydney Harbour's and/or Newtons?

    Also, where is the Paris Hilton angle?

    /Got my raincoat and heading for the door only to remember that we don't ever have rain.

  21. Tim Hogard

    So much wrong

    There is plenty wrong with the proposed plant location like its too far from where the water needs to go, the currents near the beach aren't very good for this project and the land around the area is not great for large industrial works since its full of holes left from prior mining operations.

    The big problem is they are building a plant 4 times the size of the Tampa plant for 24 times the money. The proposed plant's energy consumption is about double what modern plants use. The real question is what will happen early in 2009 when the dams will all run out of water since two years is a long time to go with no water.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Desalination not the only option

    I remember playing Dune 2000... they had wind tunnels which extracted moisture from the air. Yes, it's an idea from a sci-fi computer game, but the idea isn't that far fetched, and wouldn't result in semi-toxic brine being pumped into the ocean.

  23. Dave

    Recycled Water

    Surely if the problem is that people don't like the idea of drinking recycled water, then the desalination plant could be used to provide drinking water, and the recycled stuff could be used to dilute the outfall from the plant back to normal levels before dumping it in the ocean. Then one day when people aren't looking, they could turn the plant off and just let people drink the recycled stuff without telling them and see if they notice the difference.

  24. TeeCee Gold badge

    Dino smarts.

    A load of crusties have to chain themselves to railings, live in muddy tunnels, chuck things at the cops and hang around outdoors waving placards in all weathers to put a crimp in a major development.

    It seems that all a load of Dinos have to do to achieve the same is to lie around all nice 'n comfy in the subsoil strata.

    I know which group my money's on in the "smart" stakes.

  25. Geoff

    Why not try CETO - they are trialing it at the moment. Typically the Oz Govt and state Govts dont want to know about it. It produces electricity and fresh water in variable percentages of each, so during the day use it to produce sufficient electricity to meet the demand (supplementing solar,wind etc generation) and produce mostly water, at night produce electricity until the load drops and then go back to water production. By the sound of it, the only thing you see on land is a pump house, a generator house , water pipes (unless underground) and transmission lines (which also could be underground). You get water and power without greenhouse gases.

  26. breakfast Silver badge

    They... they did what???

    "What's that mate? They built this desalination plant on an old dinosaur graveyard? Well that explains a whole lot about the mysterious goings on we've had round here, doesn't it?"

  27. JamesH

    re: Desalination is not the only option

    Not wishing to appear picky but Dune 2000 was actually based on a book called, er, Dune. Which is where the original idea can be found. I don't think video games designers are that good at ideas.....

    As to the concept, obviously you do need some water in the air to start with...and a lot of power to run the fridge unit to get the water out. But possible.


  28. Pum

    Dune book?

    They wrote a book based on the Dune computer game? Cool! ;)

    I bet it would make a great film too! ;)))

  29. Anonymous Coward


    Nah, I reckon the film would be a over-long meandering pile of poo (if it was ever made, that is)

  30. Graham Bartlett

    What to do with salt

    People may not be aware that the chemical processing industry uses truly vast quantities of salt as the basis for most plastics (the "C" in "PVC"). This generally involves pumping water into salt mines and extracting the resulting saline - ICI and all the other chemical industries would dearly love to have saline supplied to them for free. Why no-one joins the dots on this is completely beyond me.

  31. Luther Blissett

    Triste tropiques

    Sad that Australians could think their primary cultural patrimony is dinosaurs, so that a cache of old animal bones could halt a project of dire necessity. But then it took a Frenchman (Levi-Strauss) to appreciate just how profound, subtle and logical the myths of your aborignal Australian inhabitants really were (sic).

    But now your prime minister elect is going to sign you up to Kyoto, you will be bled dry by taxation even as you are dying of thirst, and put in fear of being invaded by Indonesians (Muslims, you see - always works), and I don't expect the primal Aboriginal gods are much enamoured of you. So don't expect any rest.

    Good luck, and on behalf of HMG may I apologize for the resettlement of your ancestors. But before you file for compensation, do take a look at what happened over the Chagos Islands - we have ways of subverting democracy and justice.

    And i'll bet the desalination plant has not been designed to take account of rising sea levels.

  32. Chris G

    Dune could be right

    There is and has been a fair amount of research into systems to extract water vapour out of the atmosphere, one system known as WARP (water and power),envisages a kilometer high tower using solar heat to initially warm up incoming air to make it rise within the tower. Wind gradient at the top of the tower also contributes to lifting the air which cools as it rise condensing out the water. the airstream can also be used to power turbines for electricity generation. Just Google atmospheric water, there's loads of stuff. As far as the saline concentrate is concerned the yanks in the SW of the states are considering deep well injection to get rid of the byproduct. Deep underground already has lots of highly salt water so presumably a bit more wont hurt.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frank Herbert. Yeah, that's him.

    Obviously you need humidity, of which Australia has bucket-loads. I wonder how big an atmospheric water generator you'd need to generate the same amount of water as a desalinisation plant.

  34. Neil Cameron

    Why not use Max Water

    This is an amazing concept that works Engineered by an Australian proven to work effectively unfortunately needs to be SOLD overseas. Australians (more precisely Australian Governments) NEVER support Australians. History repeats itself again and again.

    This concept would supply all the water we need at a lower cost than present.

    DUMB Australians

  35. Damian Gabriel Moran

    the future is in...

    dehydrated water, I am sure it will appear in the innovations catalogue soon enough, or maybe JML will bring it out and Woolworths will stock it

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