CAMPAIGNERS are questioning why, after so much rain this winter, South West Water still wants to build a desalination plant in St Austell Bay.

The water company put forward the idea of having a desalination plant at Par after reservoir levels dropped to low levels and water restrictions were brought in.

But with the heat and lack of rainfall now a distant memory and reservoirs full, the campaigning Desalination Information Group (DIG) wants to see the plan dropped.

The group points to the “unprecedented increase in sewage overflows” that has occurred in all the wet weather and is calling on South West Water to improve its water storage and reduce leaks.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Aileen Ryder of DIG. “South West Water is using ‘too much rain’ as an excuse for sewage overflows whilst at the same time saying ‘there is not enough rain’ so it needs to build a desalination plant.

“St Austell Bay is regularly subjected to sewage overflows. Sewage discharge pipes are located at several points around the bay, including one around 1000m from the proposed abstraction point

“The proposed plant is not only close to sewage overflows, it will also be an environmental disaster.

“Desalination is energy intensive and expensive both to build and run and the pipeline routes South West Water is considering for abstracting seawater initially and discharging the concentrated brine are almost certain to damage the environmentally-sensitive seagrass and maerl beds of St Austell Bay.

“South West Water is proposing to install two 900mm pipelines into St Austell Bay – the pipe to abstract the seawater will be around 1.5 kilometres long and the other, to carry the concentrated brine back into the bay, is around three kilometres long.

“South West Water intends to directionally drill under the seagrass beds and use open trenching through the maerl, which will inevitably cause irreparable damage to both.”

South West Water has stated that it wants to “break the cycle of drought in Cornwall”.