the value of water depends on how dry it is

Variability is at the core of water management. When it’s on the dry side of the range, some folks are willing to pay a lot for water. But if that involves big capital expenditures, are you willing to sit on the cost when things get wet? Brett Walton explains how this is playing out in Queensland:

Queensland spent big during the decade of drought that choked Australia at the turn of the 21st century.

The northeastern province built a $AUS 2.6 billion facility to purify and reuse sewer water and a $AUS 1.2 billion plant to remove the salt from seawater. Both were completed in 2008, but the desalination plant did not begin operating until 2009.

But just a few years after completion, the rains returned, reservoirs refilled, and cheaper water supply options became available. The shine has worn off these capital investments now that the plants sit unused while still requiring hundreds of millions of dollars annually in debt payments and maintenance costs.