Western Australia's Southern Seawater Desalination Plant has commenced operation and is set to start supplying drinking water to Perth residents.


The plant, which currently runs at a 50 gigalitre per year production capacity, received $18.4 million in funding through the Federal Government's Water for the Future initiative.


The completion of the 50 gigalitre per year first stage of desalination plant means that, on average, more than 30 per cent of Western Australia's urban water supply will come from climate independent sources. The focus on site has now shifted to the plant expansion, recently announced by the WA Government, which will see the capacity double from 50 billion litres to 100 billion litres a year, by the summer of 2012-13. When the plant is expanded, around half of Perth's water supply will come from desalination.


"The Australian Government is working with the Western Australian Government to ensure the security of water supplies for the residents of the South West. We are providing $140 million for water projects in Western Australia including desalination, waste water recycling, stormwater harvesting and reuse and water efficiency measures such as the showerhead swap and H2OmeSmart programs in Perth," Parliamentary Secretary for Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said.


The opening of the plant comes as Australia's first desalination research facility has opened in Rockingham, Western Australia. The research facility, a joint venture between State and Federal Governments, was launched by local and international specialists.


State Water Minister Bill Marmion opened the National Centre for Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA) centre which will receive $3 million over three years from the State Government and an additional $2 million from the Federal Government.  


NCEDA is a consortium of 13 universities and CSIRO collaborating to improve desalination technology with Australian and international research institutions, private companies, water and power utilities, and government agencies.