South West Water Announce Desalination Plant in Cornwall

In a press release yesterday South West Water announced that:

South West Water is making progress towards bringing desalination to Cornwall after appointing Veolia Water Technologies & Solutions to move to the next phase of development.

Last year saw record levels of drought in the South West, putting pressure on the region’s water resources. South West Water has worked hard to increase supplies and build greater future resilience.

Preparation for future climate change issues includes the first desalination plant in Cornwall, which will provide a climate-independent source of water and protect the region against the prolonged periods of hot, dry weather we are seeing due to climate change.

South West Water explored potential sites across Cornwall’s coastline with considerations for any possible impact to the public, wildlife and the environment, and has determined that Par is the most suitable location for desalination.

Working with South West Water, Veolia will manufacture and supply the proposed desalination plant, ensuring the strictest quality control measures are in place to meet the standards required for this kind of unique project…

The desalination process will involve extracting seawater from St Austell Bay to receive initial treatment at the desalination plant. The water will then be transferred to Cornwall’s biggest water treatment works at Restormel for a secondary phase of treatment before being circulated for consumption to around 300,000 people in Cornwall.

The desalination plant will provide South West Water with an additional, long-term, water source capable of producing up to 20 million litres of water per day.

According to David Harris, Drought and Resilience Director for South West Water:

The extreme weather conditions we faced last year means we are taking proactive steps to develop climate-independent sources of water. This will help us to become less reliant on rainfall and more resilient against the impacts of climate change in the future.

We are working closely with our regulators and other key stakeholders to ensure we are delivering this project in the most responsible way and we are pleased to be working closely with Veolia to build and deliver the proposed desalination for the South West.

Ben Harding, Regional Vice President – UK & Ireland for Veolia Water Technologies & Solutions, added:

Our work with South West Water highlights our continued leadership and proven expertise with desalination technology, worldwide. We are excited to provide our end-to-end portfolio of solutions that deliver on South West Water’s stringent quality requirements, timescales, and challenges to regenerate water supplies whilst minimising energy consumption. As a global leader in ecological transition, Veolia puts sustainability at the forefront and looks forward to helping increase access to clean water and protecting the environment.

In conclusion South West Water’s press release points out that:

South West Water is undertaking a programme of public engagement on the project prior to the submission of a planning application.

The first stage in that consultation is an explanatory article about desalination on their web site. In answer to the obvious question “Why Now?” SWW state that:

For the past few years, many of our customers have been suggesting desalination as a solution to the water resources constraints we have in the South West as we are surrounded by the sea.

Behind the scenes, we’ve been exploring desalination. With advances in NetZero technology, it means we can now offset some of the energy requirements of desalination and approach these schemes in a much more sustainable way than before.

Desalination technology itself has progressed too, meaning that processes are more efficient than ever before.

We need to do more to secure the region’s water supplies for the future and now is the right time to progress our designs and plans.

The explanatory article concludes by providing the following information:

We’re currently holding two public information events in December where local people can find out more about our proposals so far. Come along to find out more and tell us what you think.

Par: Monday 11th December 2023, Alexander Hall, St Blazey, PL24 2JH, 4pm–7pm 
Lostwithiel: Tuesday 12th December 2023, Church Rooms, Lostwithiel, PL26 6AB, 4pm–7pm

That isn’t very much notice, so if you’ve failed to make either “public information event” you’ll have to make do with the set of documents provided on SWW’s web site. Here’s a plan of the proposal extracted from the “Event display boards“:

Back in March I was idly wondering how the proposed desalination plant would be powered:

Based on this section of the Par desalination Frequently Asked Questions document it sounds as though the answer to my question is a resounding “No!”:

We are currently considering how an increase in energy use can be offset by interventions elsewhere, including energy recovery systems at the proposed desalination plant and at Restormel. We will also look at how renewable energy can be harnessed as part of our wider vision.

We anticipate that the desalination plant will require just over 7MW. However, we do not anticipate that the plant will run at this level all of the time.

The plant will be powered by electricity supplied by National Grid Electricity Division. South West Water has a 100% REGO renewable energy supply contract which is supported by Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO). It is envisaged that by 2028, South West Water will have 50% organic renewable electricity and 50% REGO. All the energy used on site will be either electric, hydro-electric and solar (where possible) to align with South West Water’s net zero commitment by 2030.

To be continued…

Jim Hunt

I've been programming computers since the late 60s. In those days they didn't have computers in schools, so we had to build our own. What can I program next? Will I have to build it first?

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jim Hunt

    South West Water have been speaking to BBC Spotlight:

    According to the BBC:

    Utility company South West Water said it was “on track” for its two biggest strategic reservoirs, Colliford in Cornwall and Roadford in Devon, “to recharge to 90% capacity in March 2024″…

    South West Water said it was “working hard to make improvements… that will benefit our region long into the future”.

    The company added it was working to “break the cycle of drought”.

    Water storage in Roadford Lake is currently at 75% of total capacity:

    Will the proposed desalination plant be up and running by the summer of 2024. With or without it, will there be another hosepipe ban some time next year?

  2. Ralph Hyde

    SWW has plenty of land to place Solar/Wind farms on , so it’s disappointing that SWW need to buy “green sourced energy” when actually they could be selling there own back into the net. No mention is made of the opportunity to generate the 7MW for Par’s desalination plant, which astoundingly is placed close to a sewage outfall and will not benefit from water sourced with lower salinity of a brackish estuary site such as the upper Tamar above Saltash or be able to make use of its tidal hydro power potential.

    1. Jim Hunt

      My thoughts exactly Ralph! Along with a few others, including:

      “Why didn’t South West Water (apparently) think of that?” and,

      “Is this mere coincidence?”


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