The Victorian Desalination Project: Global Vision

Subject: Tech & Engineering
Pages: 13
Words: 3428
Reading time:
14 min
Study level: College

Introduction

The effects of climate change can sometimes lead to prolonged drought hence creating water shortage, especially in the urban areas. In some countries, there are no proper mechanisms employed for rainwater conservation that can sustain households during the season of drought (Alberts, Audrey, &Lisa 2008). This creates a need for developing alternative water sources, especially for human consumption. Some of the ideal alternative sources of water are the oceans and the seas. Unfortunately, sea water contains salts and minerals that make it unfit for human consumption. The process of converting ocean water, which is basically saline, to making it fit for human consumption is called desalination.

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The Victorian Government plans to construct the largest desalination project with an annual desalination capacity of 150 gigalitres. The purpose of this study is to analyse the progress of the project since its initiation on 19th June, 2007, when the Victorian Government announced its plans for the construction of the Victorian Desalination Project in November, 2012.

Desalination work starts
“Desalination work starts”

Projects are undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives (Nokes 2007). In any project management, the primary challenge is usually in meeting the set objectives while trying to cope with its constraints (Lewis & Roehrich 2006). For effective project management to take place, project planning must be done. One of the constituents of the planning process is to determine the project scope (Harold, 2003). The primary objective of the Victorian Desalination Project was to create a water source that would not depend on rainfall. The project intended to produce quality desalinated water. The initial annual water supply had been 150 gigalitres which could be increased to 300 gigalitres in future. Plans were made to create two major tunnels, one for water intake from the sea and the other for water outlet to the 5 major water reservoirs. The second tunnel was meant to temporarily store desalinated water before it was pumped for supply. Water supply and delivery to the capital city would be done through 8 large underground water pipes which would cover a distance of 100 kilometres. The water supply and delivery to the other major towns would be through two major underground water pipes that would stretch up to 200 kilometres. The project also included the construction of a coastal park on a 20-hectare land surrounding the Victorian Desalination Project, which would be meant for public recreation activities.

The coastal park would contain sporting areas for outdoor sports, a shopping mall and a game park. The project aimed at the construction of a renewable power station which was meant to serve the Victorian Desalination Water Plant and the surrounding environment. This was in line with the government’s policy to maximise on the use of renewable power and minimise on the use of non-renewable power. The communities living around the project would also benefit from the installation of fibre optic network communication. This is a broadband communication system that would greatly improve internet connection in the area. The project’s stakeholders were the government, private organizations and the local communities that neighboured the desalination plant. The government and the private organizations would offer monetary input into the project. The communities would offer human resources by providing the project with labour power during its construction. The Victorian Water Desalination Project’s Charter had outlined all the details and also put into perspective the inclusive role of the stakeholders in this project. The Charter had clearly defined the work responsibilities and the expected benefits of each stakeholder and the terms of the contract (Crockford 1986). The communication methods and protocol between the three stakeholders were also defined in the project’s Charter. The main objective of the Charter was to eliminate the ambiguities in terms of the relationships between the three stakeholders.

Such challenges as extreme weather and climatic conditions had hampered the implementation of the Victorian Water Desalination Project. During the rainy season, the construction work would halt temporarily due to the interference of rain. Fog had also hampered the construction work as the feasibility aspects of the construction work would not be conducive in the heavy presence of fog in the working environment. Several key constraints were experienced in the implementation stage of the project. Various licenses were required. The National Environment Management Authority was supposed to carry out a thorough environmental assessment on the project’s impact on the environment. After the assessment by the National Environment Management Authority, a clearance certificate was to be issued. Since the National Environment Management Authority is an independent body, it took time to carry out its mandate which led to a delay in the implementation process of the desalination project. The local authorities had to issue a few licenses as per the local authority’s statutory act before the construction of the pipelines. The National Communication Body was expected to issue a few licenses before the installation of the fibre network. The processes involved in the acquisition of the licenses were cumbersome.

Project’s Overview

The Victorian Desalination Project was jointly funded by the Victorian Government and private organizations through a program called Public Private Funding. The estimated cost of the entire project was $500 billion with the government contributing $350 billion and the rest was to be covered by private stakeholders through charity donations. The funds were to be managed through a single bank account. By January 2008, two implementation committees were constituted which were the Victorian Water Desalination Management Committee and the Victorian Water Desalination Monitoring Committee. The members of the mentioned committees were appointed with respect to their qualifications and experiences in the management and implementation of desalination projects. The role of the Victorian Water Desalination Committee was to undertake all the administrative and managerial duties. The same committee was supposed to foresee the implementation of the project.

A fully functional central operations office was put in place in the capital city to coordinate all the activities of the desalination project by the said committee. The Victorian Water Desalination Monitoring Committee’s mandate was to monitor the project’s implementation and ensure that the project was to be done as per the terms of the contract. The Victorian Water Desalination Project was to be undertaken in 3 phases. The first phase included the construction of the desalination plant. It was scheduled to take 3 years and it began on June, 2008, with a ground breaking ceremony on July 20, 2007. The second phase involved the construction of the coastal park which was scheduled to begin on June, 2009 and be completed by December, 2011. The last phase involved the construction of a renewable power generation plant and electrification to communities living along the water pipeline and fibre optic installations. These were planned to begin on June, 2010 and be done by December, 20011.The testing of the project was to start on January, 2011 and run for six months. The commissioning of the project was aimed to take place on November, 2012, with an opening ceremony..

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An aerial view of the project upon completion: “ biancoeng.com.au Victorian Desalination Plant 800 &muda.
An aerial view of the project upon completion: “ biancoeng.com.au Victorian Desalination Plant 800 &muda.

Procurement

Procurement is a process of buying appropriate goods and services at the best costs. There are two types of procurements which are the direct and indirect ones (Lewis, 2009). Direct procurement usually occurs in manufacturing plants while the indirect happens when acquiring operational goods or services (Caldwell, Roehrich &Davis 2009). For effective project management, proper procurement policies and guidelines should be developed. The guidelines should be used as references any time there is procurement taking place. The Management Committee began with establishing different subcommittees and mandating them with various responsibilities. A contract for the construction of each phase was to be awarded to qualified companies through competitive bidding. This was in line with the governmental procurement policy that any projects worth $50 million and above should have the contracts awarded through competitive bidding.

The competitive bidding process was open to both the national and the international companies. The Technical Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the management committees, was mandated to draw the technical specifications for each phase. The technical specifications outlined all the technical requirements of each phase. With the technical specifications and requirements, the finance committee as well as a subcommittee of the management committee was mandated to draw the estimated budget for each phase. This took a period of three months from July, 2007 to October, 2007. The management team then began to draw the tender documents. The tendering process took 2 months. After the tender documents were availed, the bidding of tenders was advertised in the local media. Two advertisements were run in the local dailies on December, 2007. The Tender Selection Sub-Committee, another committee within the Management Committee, began the selections for the tenders through a competitive process.

A number of factors were taken into consideration in the awarding of the tenders. One of the factors given priority was that the bidders had to be experienced in project implementation. The quoted cost of the project was given a major consideration. On costs, factors like the lowest and the highest quoted costs were not a major concern for the Tendering Committee so long as the quoted ones were within the estimated budget. The capacity of the bidder to undertake the project was also taken into consideration. Bidders were supposed to present bank statements to the Tendering Committee outlining their bank transactions for the last three years. Bidders were also supposed to deposit a security bond of $50million before submission of their tender documents to the Tendering Committee. This process of the selection of bidders took another two months. Qualified bidders were awarded the tenders.

Cost Management

Finances in any project management usually present challenges because they have to be managed well to fulfil the set objectives of a given project. Measures to address the full costs should be employed and integrated into the system (Mocciaro, Picone &Mina 2012). There is a need to carry out a cost benefit analysis for any given project. The analysis should reflect the balance of benefits from the costs (Weimer, 2005). One of the processes in cost benefit analysis is to predict the outcome of the cost over a given period (Boardman, 2006). The most significant advice in any cost benefit analysis is to improve on accuracy in forecasting of the full cost of the project (Kahneman et al 2011). In order to ensure that the best prices for the material supplies were sourced, the Finance Advisory Committee requested for the responses from the various manufacturers and suppliers of materials as per the technical specifications so as to ensure the quality was not compromised. Taking this into account, the Finance Advisory Committee was able to estimate the best cost of the materials required. To determine the cost of labour, the Finance Advisory Committee outlined the expected human resources required. The human resources sought included both the expatriates and the informal sector. A reference from the National Labor Union Remuneration Scheme was done to find out the minimum and the maximum remuneration for each job category. A simple survey was also carried out to establish the market rates of remuneration. Due to this information, the advisory team was able to establish the cost of construction of the project.

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The miscellaneous costs were also taken into consideration. These included the cost of renting the office for 6 years. Administrative and management costs, for example, paying office workers, telephone and fuel expenses, were also taken into account in the main budget. Before the commencement of the construction of each phase, a quarter payment deposit of the total amount of the cost of the project was made. This was to enable the contractor to start the work. The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee was supposed to visit the site every three months to monitor and give recommendations. In case the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee was not satisfied with the job done on the consultations with the Management Committee, the contractor was asked to revise and do amendments. The monitoring and evaluation assessed the progress of the implementation of the project closely to compare the actual and the budget costs.

In a few occasions, a review of the budget was done. Changes in the economy and government policy attributed to the review of the process. At one time, the import duty on all types of metals was revised by the government and increased by 2%. This led to the increase in the prices of all types of metals. The contractors eventually requested for the review of the quoted prices of the tenders. Consultation was done between the Management Committee and the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee. This was to establish how much funds were available in the contingencies. It was recommended that the review of prices was inevitable, and after a series of negotiations between the contractors and the two management committees, a consensus on the review was reached. Funds were then drawn from the contingency kit to cater for the price reviews.

All payments made on behalf of the Victorian Water Desalination Project were recorded on a predefined excel spreadsheet. The worksheet was predefined in such a way that all the expected costs were listed down. The payments and the payment dates were then recorded against the corresponding costs. The payments included money to the contractors, salaries to the office workers, fuel and electricity costs, among others. The recording of payment was done by the accountants with the supervision of the Chief Internal Auditor who verified all the records on a weekly basis. The Monitoring and Evaluation Team performed an audit every three months and compared the budgeted costs with the actual ones. A cost valuation analysis was made, and a recommendation was issued. All payments had to be approved by the Finance Committee.

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Risk Management

Positive as well as negative uncertainties on a project can occur any time, and their effects can be overwhelming. The project managers and their teams should identify in advance the underlying uncertainties likely to occur in the project; they should then assess and plan for their effects. Proper measures must be put in place for the planning and coordination of the unfortunate effects (Alberts, Audrey &Lisa 2008). The use of risk charting can help in identifying the possible risks and set the prioritised risks (Crockford, 1986). Positive risk management recognises the importance of involving an individual human factor in the risk taking (Hillson & Cohen 2007).After the impact assessment on the environment was carried out by the National Environment Management, which is a statutory policy enacted by the Environmental Act, several recommendations were made. The assessment showed that there would be great impact on the marine habitants, especially on the ones that thrived in the shallow waters. It was recommended that the desalination plant should be located 5 km from the coastal line.

A survey was carried out to show the impact of the desalination plant on the flora. It was found out that over 50 species of plants and over 100 species of animals thrived in the region. Interfering with them would have a huge influence on the ecosystem. It was recommended that green energy systems should be constructed to minimise interference with the ecosystems.

A lot of power would be generated by the renewable power plant. Overhead power cables were found not to be ideal for the supply of power. This is because the whole area was surrounded by tall indigenous trees, some of which would have been cut down in case overhead power cables were used. Underground power cables were therefore recommended. With the construction of a coastal park, a lot of waste would be generated both from the degradable and non-degradable waste. It was recommended that an external firm dealing with waste management would be involved in the project after its completion. The firm would have the capacity to convert the degradable waste into manure, and then it would be sold to the local communities at subsidised prices for the purpose of farming. The firm would also have the capacity to recycle the non-degradable waste. The waste water, especially from the sewer would also be recycled for re-use in laundry and toilets. After the desalination of the water, the salts and minerals extracted from the saline water might have had adverse effects on the environment. A consultancy firm was invited to help in addressing how those minerals and salts could be put into use or disposed in a manner that does not affect the environment.

Integration Management

This is a management concept that deals with consolidation of all the systems of an organization into a single unit at a level where all can integrate. With the integration of management in a decision process, the stakeholders should be satisfied because they get a clear picture of how all the aspects of the organization work and how they interrelate with one another. Work redundancy should be eliminated and adoption of new systems in future should be eased. Before adopting an integrated approach to management, the organization must understand areas and the levels of competence of its employees. It must also be aware of its legal and regulatory requirements.

Time Management

For any project to be effective and ensure that it is productive, it is important to manage time well. Time management is a conscious effort of planning and controlling the amount of time scheduled for each activity. Time management is a core function in any project management. The way a worker spends his or her time is closely linked to other social issues like family (Buck, Lee, Macdermid &Smith 2000). Organizational goals and roles are placed as the controlling elements of the system even when the issues of urgency arise (Covey 1990). To effectively manage time, task listing of the organization is important where “A”, refers to tasks with the highest priorities and “C”, means the tasks with lower priorities (Lakein 1973). Daily task prioritization can also be implemented using numbers, other than alphabetic letters (Morgenstern 2004). In regard to the Victorian Water Desalination Project, time management was properly implemented. All the tasks were listed. The commencement dates and the termination ones for each construction phase were established. With the help of the experts, a graph chart was drawn to show the timelines for the project. The monitoring and evaluation committees were mandated to ensure that the project ran as per the set guidelines. When contractors experienced delays due to various constraints, a few measures were put in place to recover the time lost. One of the recovery measures was to increase the number of staff. This was done by the management committees. Another measure was to increase the working hours, for example, introducing day- and night-time shifts.

Communication Management

Communication involves the conveying of a message from the sender to the receiver. The message may be in form of audio or video. It can be referred to as a process of information transmission (Schramm 1954). In the Victorian Water Desalination Project, communication took place in a number of ways making communication management a very essential tool. The stakeholders needed to have an update of all the steps in regard to the job’s progress (Birkby et al 2004). This created a need for monthly newsletters with the updates of all the activities that took place within a given month to highlight those which would be made in the next month.

The Victorian Water Desalination Project attracted a lot of interest from the general public. The reason for this was that the project would provide them with clean water for their households and industrial uses. Press conferences were organised after every six months to update the general public on the project’s progress. Two documentaries were also broadcasted in the major television stations for the purposes of keeping the general public informed. A website for the desalination project was also developed and regular postings were made to ensure it was always up to date.

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Communication between members of various committees was streamlined. The committees’ secretaries were expected to have the telephone contacts of each member as well as their email addresses. These were to enhance the communication between the members of the committee and ensure that they were aware of changes in meeting schedules as well as meeting agendas.

Conclusion

Water is life. Water desalination provides a solution to water scarcity. Water desalination projects require expertise and a lot of capital to fully implement them though in the long run, there are long term benefits. Countries that experience major water scarcity should have the concept of water desalination. Water conservation methods should be employed.

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