Water bosses spent £616,000 on seawater conversion

It will be the first time the plant has converted seawater in seven years

Jersey’s desalination plant cost more than £600,000 this year – and a climate change expert warns the bills could rise with hotter and drier summers.

The machine, which produces drinking water from the sea, was commissioned in July amid “extremely dry” weather ahead of the ban on the pipes.

The desalination plant operated for 77 days, at a cost of £616,000.

Jersey Water said the plant was funded by customers but was not linked to next year’s rate rise.

The plant, which runs at a cost of £8,000 a day, has since been shut down after heavy rains raised reservoir levels.

Jersey Water said the cost of running the plant had not been “factored into” next year’s 6% rise in tariffs, which equates to around £23 a year.

However, it said “specific adaptation” may be required in the future if it needs to operate more frequently or for longer periods.

A Jersey tank

Water levels in Jersey’s reservoirs have been significantly lower than average this summer

Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said desalination was “one element” in dealing with drought, particularly for an island nation.

“Desalination is very expensive and there is also an environmental cost.

“There is energy consumption to remove the salt from the water and that contributes to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Garden watering with water from a hose

Jersey Water said November’s “extremely wet start” meant reservoirs were now 72% full

Predicting “hotter, drier summers” in the future, he said the “extreme” Jersey summer of 2022 would be considered “typical” by mid-century.

Describing the process as “economically and environmentally expensive”, he said it would be important in the future to look at sustainable energy sources for plants like the one in Jersey.

In Jersey Water’s 2018 annual report, it said: “Relatively low reservoir storage capacity combined with the island’s reliance on rainfall means that water resources in Jersey are particularly vulnerable to periods of drought.”

In 2021, the plant at La Rosiere on the south-west coast of the island was used for just 14 days for a ‘performance trial’, at a cost of around £112,000.

Between 2011 and 2018, the plant, powered by Jersey Electricity, was not needed for drought conditions. It was then activated in 2018 and 2019 to replenish water reserves.

‘close your eyes’

A spokeswoman for Jersey Water said the operating costs of the desalination plant and the loss of revenue from the tube ban “have not been factored in” to the tariff increase.

He added that they would be “funded in this case by reserves” – paid by customers.

He said the plant would “remain out of business for the foreseeable future” but that they would “closely monitor” and review as needed.

“Going forward, we’ll probably start the pre-treatment stage every year to make sure it’s ready to run when needed.”

Regarding future tariff increases, he added: “A special adjustment may be required in the future if the operation of the desalination plant becomes more frequent or the duration of operation is extended.”

There is no permanent staff at the factory, but engineers are there every day to supervise its operation.

The Government of Jersey is the majority shareholder of Jersey Water.

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