Premier Dilemma has ditched Bob Carr’s last
big stunt as premier by putting Sydney’s desalination plant on indefinite hold. He’ll still spend several million dollars
buying the Kurnell land and building a pilot plant, but the $1.3 billion
operation for “bottled electricity” is off.

As the SMH‘s Anne Davies
explains, the desalination plant was killed by opinion polls, not
Science was never on board. The cutest part of the Macquarie Street
spin, though, was the excuse Dilemma came up with for killing the
plant – Sydneysiders can sip mineral water instead:

Cabinet met yesterday and was presented with the initial
results of drilling in western Sydney, which revealed there might be up to 30 gigalitres a
year of groundwater in aquifers. That would nearly match the 45 gigalitres a
year that might have been produced by the Kurnell desalination plant.

The groundwater has been known about for several years,
but the scale of the reserves was untested. The most recent testing provides
the government with the political figleaf to put the plant on hold for several

There’s also the little matter of
burgeoning recycling schemes that make the desalination plant’s promised output
look puny.

On the upside, the army of NSW Government
spinners might be able to do something creative with the mineral water aspect –
with a bit of appropriate branding and Sydney’s love of
expensive bottled water, they could
convince us to happily accept vastly higher water charges.

“Sydney – Premier
Mineral Water on tap”, “Sartor’s Swill – a piquant blend of mineral and
recycled waters just right for making lattes”.
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