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Plan for AZ$350m desalination plant

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The southern hemisphere's largest desalination plant able to produce about 33 million gallons per day for Western Australia water system at a cost of AZ$350 million (US$245 million) has been unveiled by the State Government in Perth.

The plant, which is due to be completed in 2006, will adopt technologies used in the Middle East and the United States to remove salt and impurities from sea water, producing water of equal or better quality than present water supplies.

It will be built next to the Kwinana power station, 40km south of Perth.

Premier Geoff Gallop said the plant would increase the water supply to Perth and its surrounds by 17 per cent each year.

"The threat of a drying climate is with us now, and desalination is a proven technology capable of delivering large quantities of water independent of the weather," Dr Gallop said.

"Both our underground and surface water supplies are not being recharged to the appropriate levels."

The decision comes after the Government rejected the environmentally sensitive alternative of piping water from the Yarragadee aquifer, which opponents say would ruin the Blackwood River.