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Acciona and Jacobs consortium awarded contract to build Australia’s Alkimos desalination plant

Western Australia’s Water Minister, Simone McGurk, announced on Thursday the selection of a consortium comprising ACCIONA Agua Australia, ACCIONA Construction, and Jacobs Group Australia, collectively known as the Northern Water Partnership (NWP), to spearhead Stage 1 of the Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant.

In a statement released by the Government of Western Australia, it was disclosed the $2.8 billion plant, and associated projects will provide an initial 50 billion litres of climate-resilient drinking water when commissioned in 2028, with a future second stage doubling capacity to 100 billion litres annually.

Situated in Alkimos, adjacent to the existing Alkimos Wastewater Treatment Plant, the new facility is engineered to address the water requirements of Perth while mitigating the region’s reliance on erratic rainfall and dwindling groundwater resources.

In addition to design and construction, the winning consortium will also operate the desalination plant under an alliance model with Water Corporation for at least 10 years from 2028. The alliance will be known as the Alkimos Seawater Alliance.

The contract provides for employment and development opportunities for at least 155 apprentices and trainees – representing 11.5 per cent of the total workforce.

Preparatory groundwork commenced late last year, with nearly half a million cubic meters of soil already displaced. Construction of the plant and associated network integration projects is scheduled to start mid-2024.

Minister Simone McGurk emphasized, “Awarding this contract represents another key milestone in this major project which will future proof water supply for more than 2.5 million Western Australians.”

The Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant will have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions during construction and operation and will allow Water Corporation to reduce its groundwater abstraction by 30 billion litres a year – helping to preserve healthy wetlands, parks, forests and public open spaces in Perth’s north.

The project has received environmental approval from Commonwealth and State regulators and will be carefully designed to protect the surrounding environment.

Western Australia suffers from declining rainfall

With a growing population, forecast to grow to 2.9 million people by 2031, Perth finds itself grappling with a precipitous decline in rainfall. Since the 1970s, southern Western Australia has witnessed a 20% reduction in precipitation, culminating in an alarming 80% decline in streamflow—a critical water resource stored within the region’s reservoirs.

Before 1975, Perth’s dams received an average of 420 billion litres of streamflow each year. Presently, the region receives less than 70 billion litres, underscoring the urgency of initiatives such as the Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant in securing Western Australia’s water future.

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