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Adelaide Desalination Plant

The plant was built in two phases, reaching a 300 million litres per day (MLD) capacity. The plant has been operational since December 2012.

The Adelaide Desalination Plant has been operating continuously since completion and has delivered more than 130 gigalitres of desalinated drinking water into the SA Water supply network (current as of end-December 2015). This state significant South Australian asset provides 50% of Adelaide's drinking water needs from a climate-independent source. 

Having this asset completed, operational and delivered on-time, has eliminated water restrictions in South Australia and improved the diversity and reliability of water supplies to business and communities in South Australia.


360 view of the desalination plant


For more information:

Adelaide Desalination Project



General information

SA Water Corporation 
Type of contract
Design, Build, Operate and Maintain (DBOM)
Contract award
February 2009 
Port Stanvac, south of metropolitan Adelaide 
Reverse Osmosis Seawater Desalination
Maximum capacity
100 gigalitres per year. The state-of-the-art plant has the capacity to deliver up to 300 million litres of water each day (100 billion litres a year), about half of Adelaide's current water needs.
Project term
Construction plus 20 years operation
Construction schedule
Completed and delivered on 12/12/12 (On-time and within original budget)
Capital cost
AU$1.83 billion
AdelaideAqua D&C Consortium comprising McConnell Dowell Constructors, Abigroup Contractors and ACCIONA Agua, is responsible for the construction of the plant
AdelaideAqua Pty Ltd, a company owned equally by ACCIONA Agua and Trility Pty Ltd  jointly operates and maintains the facility for 20 years

Key points


  • The sea water intake is composed of a 1.5 km tunnel
  • Sodium hypochlorite and sulphuric acid can be closed in the intake minimise biofuiling and to maintain tunnel conditions
  • The sea water from the intake is pumped up to a height of 57m using 12 dry chamber pumps with a total capacity of 28,400 m3/h


  • Solids filtration systems using 24 racks of disc filters
  • Ability to add coagulant agents, active carbon and sulphuric acid
  • Pretreatment using 28 ultrafiltration submerged membrane cells
  • Safety filtration using 20 filter cartridges prior to the RO
  • Ability to add antiscalant agent to avoid salt precipitation in the system
  • Ability to add sodium metabisulphite to neutralise the oxidising agent added in the intake
  • 12 high pressure pumps

Reverse Osmosis

  • Energy recovery system using ERI pressure exchangers
  • Energy recovery from the saline concentrate output, prior to discharge, using turbines which produce energy using the hydraulic jump between the level of the plant and the sea water
  • 20 first pass trains and 20+10 second pass trains which have been technically developed by ACCIONA
  • First train production capacity of 15,000m3/day, each made up of 180 pressure vessels, and in each one, 8 reverse osmosis membranes
  • Total recovery rate of 48%
  • Low energy consumption

Post Treatment

  • Remineralisation using lime and CO2
  • Disinfection using chlorine and treatment using hydrofluorsilicic acid
  • 2 treated water tanks each with a capacity of 25,000m3

Effluent treatment

  • Advanced treatment of the pre-treatment wash water
  • Neutralization of the membrane cleaning solutions


The technology used in the design makes this desalination plant a global benchmark. This design brings a number of important benefits, such as:

  • An advanced pre-treatment process that provides high levels of reliability, less energy use and a reduced need for chemicals.
  • A highly efficient reverse osmosis design which enables more efficient use of extracted seawater, significant energy savings and a smaller plant footprint.
  • An innovative diffuser design for the saline concentrate that ensures adequate mixing back into the marine environment and fulfils the environmental performance criteria.


  • 2013 Project Management Institute (PMI), USA, International Global Project of the Year Award
  • 2013 Project Management Association (PMI), The Netherlands, Project Excellence Award, Gold Medal Winner in the category of Mega Projects Project Management Institute (Australia), National Project of the Year Award
  • 2013 Water Industry Alliance, Smart Water Awards, Winner in the category of Planning and Delivery
  • 2013 Engineers Australia (South Australian Branch), Engineering Excellence Award, Commendation in the category of Project Infrastructure
  • 2013 Global Water Intelligence, Desalination Plant of the Year, Distinction Award
  • 2012 South Australian Water Corporation, Award for the Project Team and Individual Team Members - Overall SA Water Values Award Winner
  • 2012 National Electrical and Communications Association, National Excellence Award, Winner in the Large Industrial Category
  • 2012 Australian Water Association (South Australian Branch), Winner in the Infrastructure Innovation Category
  • 2012 Civil Contractor's Federation, Earth Awards, Winner in the category of Projects greater than $75 million contract value
  • 2012 Master Builders Association (South Australian Branch), Winner of the Excellence in Services Category

Image Gallery

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