A panel of Western Australian government experts has short-listed two proposals to transport water from northern Australia in giant plastic bags some 1,800 miles in open seas, to relieve water shortages in the Western Australian capital of Perth.
Fresh water would be drawn from rivers in the wetter Kimberley region of northern Australia to supply the city of more than 1 million people.
A proposal by Marecon Pty. Ltd. of Perth is to build five or more flexible polyester or polypropylene geotextile containers to be pulled by ocean-going tugs. Managing Director Jan de Geeter said the containers would be about 1,650 feet long and 99 feet in diameter.
He said a similar system was used in the Mediterranean to transport water from Turkey to Cyprus, but the material for Marecon's containers would need to be stronger to cope with heavy seas in the Indian Ocean during the cyclone season. Ten Cate Nicolon Australia Pty. Ltd., a geotextile maker in Wetherill Park, Australia, would supply the fabric. He said each water container would cost US$777,000 to US$2.33 million (A$1 million to A$3 million).
Reg Appleyard, who heads the panel, said the Turkey system had closed because of a lack of funding after operating for more than six years. A similar system used to move water between Athens and a Greek island also was suspended after a ship backed into the water container this year, destroying it.
Both operations appeared technologically successful, Appleyard said, but the water containers were only 230-264 feet long. Australia needs new materials and technologies because the containers need to be larger, he said.
Two other firms, MH Waters Pty. Ltd. and Medusa Corp. propose building a single-chamber plastic bag 2,210 feet long, 525 feet wide and with a 73-foot draft, to be towed at speeds of 2-3 knots. The container's polyethylene and fabric skin would be coated with polyurethane, PVC or rubber. The container would be filled to only 40 percent of capacity to allow for temporary deformity in heavy seas, Appleyard said.
The panel will report to the Western Australian government in September.