Permanent Belmont Desalination Plant to enhance water security

Hunter Water has taken a crucial step in securing the Lower Hunter’s water supply for generations to come by formally applying to build a permanent seawater desalination plant at Belmont.

Hunter Water has taken a crucial step in securing the Lower Hunter’s water supply for generations to come by formally applying to build a permanent seawater desalination plant at Belmont.

 The NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) has put the plant’s Modification Application on public display today, seeking community and stakeholder feedback by Tuesday, 20 February 2024. 

Building the Belmont Desalination Plant will add up to 30 million litres per day of rainfall-independent drinking water capacity to the system, or about 15 per cent of the region’s average daily needs. 

As a key action in the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan, the Belmont Desalination Plant, as a permanent facility, will be an enduring, integrated, and vital part of the Lower Hunter’s water supply system. 

Hunter Water Managing Director Darren Cleary says the Belmont Desalination Plant will help to provide the water security needed to ensure a sustainable future for our region and its economy. 

“We can’t rely on rain alone anymore. We know our region’s water storage can fall from typical operating levels to critical levels in less than three years. Should a severe drought continue beyond three years, our region could run out of water. 

“To design and construct the permanent Belmont Desalination Plant, Hunter Water anticipates investing $530 million. This investment includes measures to ensure the desalination plant will be an enduring asset for future generations and remain resilient to the impacts of climate change. It also reflects rising construction costs being experienced across many industries. 

“This investment in the region’s future means improved water security for Hunter Water customers. Compared to the previously approved temporary facility, which would only have been constructed in response to drought, the improved durability of this infrastructure means our region can depend on it for many decades to come. 

“To fund the desalination plant, an annual increase of around $90 on a typical household bill is required. The typical water and wastewater bill for the owner of a house is currently around $1,340. 

“Water security is fundamental to setting up our region for a sustainable, resilient and prosperous future. There is strong community support for improving water security and we need to take pressure off the region’s dams by diversifying and expanding our water sources. 

“Building a 30 megalitre per day desalination plant at Belmont means we mitigate the region’s drought risk as soon as practicable and ensure we can continue to meet a minimum supply of safe drinking water for our customers, even during drought,” said Mr Cleary. 

Key changes and features of the project

We propose modifying the approved plant from a drought response desalination plant capable of providing 30 million litres of drinking water per day to a permanent operation desalination plant with the same capacity.

The location of the plant next to the existing Belmont Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) is the same.

Additional changes include:

  • raising the height of the development area to protect the plant from changing climate conditions;
  • increasing the size of the building area within the approved project footprint;
  • increasing the height of the lime tower up to 15 metres about the adjusted ground level;
  • relocating the direct ocean intake further north, which in turn reduces the length of the ocean intake pipeline;
  • changes to the marine intake structures, pumps and pipes to future-proof the system;
  • upgrades to the power network and subsequent changes to plant power supply, and;
  • changes to stormwater management.

There are also changes proposed to the construction methods, plant and equipment, including:

  • the location and size of the dredging area;
  • disposal of dredged material;
  • using a large crane offshore for marine elements of the project;
  • using a helicopter to transport workers and materials offshore;
  • out-of-hours work (OOHW) during construction, including 24 hours 7 days per week (24/7) for some parts of the project;
  • increasing construction duration up to 36 months;
  • construction workforce numbers up to 215 full-time equivalent (FTE), and;
  • heavy vehicle movements of around 180 – 200 trips per day during peak periods.

How to have your say

The Modification Report is on public exhibition via the NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) for 28 days from Wednesday, 24 January to Tuesday, 20 February 2024.

The Modification Report display is an opportunity for you to make comments on the environmental impacts and mitigation actions of the proposed changes to the desalination plant. Anyone can make a submission to DPHI during the exhibition period, which closes on Tuesday, 20 February 2024.

Make a submission

You can make a submission online at the DPHI major projects website

For more information about making a submission, please call DPHI on 1300 305 695.

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