VICTORIA'S $6.1 billion desalination plant, having been finally commissioned for use this week, has been placed on standby until needed.The Wonthaggi plant has been plagued by controversy since its announcement by the former Bracks Labor government in June 2007.
Local residents fought against it, industrial disputes abounded and its projected cost blew out from an initial $3.1 billion to $6.1 billion.
The plant's completion date was delayed and the drought ended before its completion, flooding the plant site.
Melbourne Water users were then overcharged by $300 million before it commenced operating and this month the plant builder claimed the plant was too big.
Now with the plant finally ready for business, Melbourne dams are at 81.2 per cent, compared to a low of 25 per cent in June 2009.
The plant achieved its Reliability Testing Finalisation at 5pm yesterday after running at maximum capacity for a month.
The testing delivered 450,000 cubic metres of drinking water to Cardinia Reservoir per day.
Water Minister Peter Walsh said the holding charge of $1.8 million a day would now begin tomorrow and refunds finalised for Melbourne Water customers who were overcharged earlier this year.
A government spokeswoman said that each year the water minister will place a water order by April 1.
This year a zero order has been placed and it is yet to be seen when the first litres of water will be ordered from the plant, which was commissioned to provide 150 billion litres of high quality drinking water a year for Melbourne, Geelong, Westernport and Wonthaggi.
AquaSure, which is overseeing the plant's construction and operation, said it had run faultlessly since testing began in mid-2012.
AquaSure chief executive Chris Herbert said the plant was one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects undertaken in Australia in recent years.
It comprises 29 buildings, two underground tunnels of more than 1km long each, an 84km pipeline to deliver water and an 87km underground power cable.
Fifty-two people will staff the plant while it is in standby mode.