Drought Response Desalination

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Planning approval for the Belmont desalination plant has been received. This means we are able to start construction of the plant when needed in response to drought.

A desalination plant for the Lower Hunter was originally identified in the 2014 Lower Hunter Water Plan as a drought response measure.

As one of the few water source options not dependent on rainfall, desalination helps us to continue to support our customers and communities with a safe and reliable water source regardless of changes in weather or climate.

Belmont was selected as the location for the desalination plant after a multi-site analysis

Planning approval for the Belmont desalination plant has been received. This means we are able to start construction of the plant when needed in response to drought.

A desalination plant for the Lower Hunter was originally identified in the 2014 Lower Hunter Water Plan as a drought response measure.

As one of the few water source options not dependent on rainfall, desalination helps us to continue to support our customers and communities with a safe and reliable water source regardless of changes in weather or climate.

Belmont was selected as the location for the desalination plant after a multi-site analysis was completed.

Download a project summary, including common questions and answers here. This document is also available in the document library.

Details about the planning approval process, including all of the associated documents, are available via the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment DPIE Major Projects portal.


  • Planning approval for Belmont desalination plant

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    Hunter Water welcomes planning approval for Belmont desalination plant

    Hunter Water welcomes the NSW Government’s announcement that planning approval has been issued by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for a desalination plant at Belmont to produce up to 30 million litres a day of drinking water in response to drought.


    Hunter Water Managing Director, Darren Cleary, said the approval provides an additional source of safe and reliable drinking water for the region in the event of a severe drought.


    “Desalination is one of only a few water supply options that is rainfall independent, helping us to continue to support our customers and communities regardless of changes in weather or climate.


    “The Lower Hunter community gained a sense of what a prolonged and severe drought would be like when we all experienced the most recent drought through 2019-2020, which saw the introduction of water restrictions for the first time in many decades,” said Mr Cleary.


    “Fortunately, the drought broke with good rainfall. The Lower Hunter’s water system can fall from typical levels to 15% in less than three years, even with the implementation of a range of drought response measures and restrictions. Had the drought continued beyond three years, our region could have run out of water.


    “Our community has told us that in times of severe drought, they would support adopting significant restrictions that would reduce water use to around 100 litres per person per day. This would reduce overall total water demand on the system from typical levels of 180 million litres a day to around 125 million litres a day.

    “Planning approval for the Belmont desalination plant gives us an additional tool to help close our supply gap during periods of drought, providing Hunter Water with the capacity to provide up to an additional 30 million litres of water each day.”

    “The Belmont plant is now part of our region’s ongoing water security package. Hunter Water is finalising the review of the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan, which will outline additional proposed supply and demand measures to ensure a resilient water supply for our region that caters for growth and can respond to the impacts of drought and climate variability,” said Mr Cleary.


    The approved Belmont plant’s water production capacity is double that originally proposed. The plant was increased from 15 million litres per day to 30 million litres per day to provide greater drought security and reliability, improve efficiency and deliver greater value for money for the Lower Hunter community.


    The planning approval also confirms the direct ocean seawater intake system, which involves piping seawater from a kilometre offshore.


    The approval is supported by comprehensive environmental impact investigations, which indicated that potential impacts can be mitigated through detailed design and delivery.


    The planning work for the desalination plant has been considered in the review of the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan, which is exploring a range of supply and demand options for the Lower Hunter community.


    The draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan will be released for public comment next week (Monday 9 August 2021).



  • Next steps for Belmont Desal

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    The Environmental Impact Statement for the drought response desalination plant at Belmont has been on public exhibition twice. The first time was the original plans for the project, the second time included our response to feedback from the first public exhibition and amendments to the plans for the project in the Response to Submission and EIS Amendment Report.

    This is all part of the planning process which is managed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE). The remaining steps in the process include

    • Collating submissions
    • Response to submissions
    • Assessment of the proposal
    • Recommendation
    • Determination

    Visit the DPIE Major Projects portal for regular updates and more detailed information.

  • Submission response and EIS Amendment Report on public exhibition

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    Hunter Water has prepared a response to submissions received during the EIS exhibition period in 2019. We have also changed the design of the plant from what was described in the exhibited EIS. These changes include an increase to the plant capacity and change to a direct ocean intake.

    The amended project design and the updated environmental impact assessment are detailed in a combined Response to Submissions and EIS Amendment Report which has been placed on public exhibition by DPIE.

    This is an opportunity for you to make comment on the proposal, the potential environmental impacts and the proposed mitigations. You can view the Report and make a submission between Thursday 10 September and Thursday 8 October 2020

    A full copy of the Report can be downloaded from the DPIE Major Projects website at the following web address. https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/10546.

    If you would like to participate in an online information session, please register your interest using the registration form. If you have any questions please email us at desal@hunterwater.com.au .

  • Preparing EIS Amendment Report to address design changes

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    An EIS Amendment Report is currently being prepared for submission to Department of Planning Industry and Environment. It will outline Hunter Water’s response to issues raised in submissions received during the EIS exhibition period and show how Hunter Water has considered the issues and where feasible addressed these in the amended design, or in amended mitigation and management measures.

    The EIS Amendment Report will be seeking planning approval for an increased plant capacity to produce up to 30 million litres per day (ML/d) of drinking water, together with a direct ocean intake pipeline.

    The EIS Amendment Report will to be placed on public exhibition by the Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment (DPIE) for up to 30 days from lodgement in the middle of the year.

  • Hunter Water lodges environmental impact statement for desalination plant at Belmont

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    Hunter Water has lodged an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a drought response desalination plant at Belmont that will be used if the region's water storages reach critical levels.

  • Desalination plant would be region's last resort, says Hunter Water

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    On Breakfast with Jenny Marchant and Dan Cox

    ABC Newcastle's Dan Cox and Jenny Marchant spoke to Darren Cleary, Hunter Water's Chief Investment Officer, to find out how it would work and how far away we are from needing it.

    Listen to the interview here.

  • Redhead Surf Club fundraising markets

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    Hunter Water is proud to support this year’s Redhead Surf Club fundraising markets. The temporary desalination project team will have an information stall so we can talk to residents about the proposed plan. If you’ve got questions or just want more information, come and say Hi to the team.

    The markets will be held at the Redhead Surf Club on Friday, 7 December, between 4pm and 8pm. There will be food and drink stalls and Christmas gifts.

    For more details visit the Redhead Surf Club Markets Facebook page


  • Project Update - October 2018

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    Work has begun on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required for planning approval of the temporary desalination plant at Belmont.

    The EIS process includes a number of specialist studies and investigation of:

    • Hydrology and water quality
    • Coastal process and hazards
    • Biodiversity
    • Contamination
    • Social impacts and human health
    • Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment
    • Flooding and drainage
    • Sustainability
    • Traffic and transport
    • Noise and vibration
    • Waste
    • Visual impact
    • Air quality

    Some site work has been completed including geotechnical investigations. Bore hole drilling has also taken place and the bore holes will remain for the next six months as we continue to analyse subsurface conditions.

    As part of the pre-planning investigations, Hunter Water was required to submit a preliminary environmental assessment to the Department of Planning and Environment. This assessment, a Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), was approved and outlined the work required to fulfil the EIS.

    Upon completion of the EIS, there will be a review and submission period with Hunter Water aiming to secure a final determination and planning approval before the end of 2019.

    Trigger points

    An unusually wet October has provided a welcome boost to our water storage levels but planning work for the temporary desalination plant will continue. Under the 2014 Lower Hunter Water Plan, a temporary desalination plant is designed to be a measure of last resort in severe drought. As at 11 October, our water storage levels sit at 84.4 per cent. The temporary desalination plant won’t be built until our water storage reaches 35 per cent. We still need to get planning approval now so we can have everything ready to go if it is needed.

    Project Trigger Points


    Continued consultation

    Underlying all of this activity is Hunter Water’s commitment to stakeholder engagement. From the initial assessment phase of this project, Hunter Water has been committed to open and inclusive engagement and consultation with stakeholders.

    We’ve been actively engaging with the community, key stakeholders, local council and regulatory agencies about plans for the temporary desalination plant and our drought response measures.

    Hunter Water’s new engagement platform,Your Voice, is a way for our community to be part of the conversation. Sign up to have your say about our current projects and upcoming initiatives so you can help shape our region’s water future.

    Questions or Comments?

    Join the conversation on the Discussion Board or send us your question through the Q&A forum.

    If you would like more information, you can call 1800 066 243 or email tempdesal@hunterwater.com.au.


  • In The News: ABC Newcastle

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    Hunter Water spokeswoman Renee Fedder spoke to ABC Newcastle about reducing water usage and preparing for a serious drought.

    Questions or Comments?

    Join the conversation on the Discussion Board or send us your question through the Q&A forum.

    If you would like more information, you can call 1800 066 243 or email tempdesal@hunterwater.com.au.


  • Project Update - August 2018

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    Investigation works will soon be occurring on the proposed site of the temporary desalination plant at Belmont, on Hunter Water land, next to the Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) including the dunes and down to the water’s edge. Hunter Water is planning to drill bore holes and undertake geotechnical surveys to investigate subsurface conditions. Environmental investigations will also be undertaken as well as reviewing existing power and water connections.

    This work will commence in August and will be undertaken by Hunter Water’s contractor GHD. Given the significance of this project, testing will be ongoing over the next eight to ten months as we prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Department of Planning & Environment.

    During the work you may notice the drilling rig and vehicles onsite, however the work should not result in excessive dust or noise. An important aim of all Hunter Water projects is to minimise any inconvenience to the community, businesses and customers.

    Hunter Water will not be restricting access to Nine Mile Beach. The work on Nine Mile Beach is expected to take place over a four day period, on weekdays, between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm. Beach users will need to take appropriate care and are asked to stay clear of testing sites. All sites will be clearly sign posted and bore holes will be protected by screens to prevent damage.

    The site plan below shows the current planned location of test sites including the sand dunes.

    Hunter Water is committed to open, ongoing engagement with the community about plans for the temporary desalination plant and our drought response measures. Our Your Voice webpage is an opportunity for members of our community to give Hunter Water feedback on plans for the temporary desalination plant as we go through the planning stages. To sign up to Your Voice, and receive project updates, visit https://yourvoice.hunterwater.com.au/register.


    Questions or Comments?

    Join the conversation on the Discussion Board or send us your question through the Q&A forum.

    If you would like more information, you can call 1800 066 243 or email tempdesal@hunterwater.com.au.


Page last updated: 04 August 2021, 13:32