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VRC CEO Dale Monteith today (Sunday) announced a major expansion of Flemington’s world-first in situ desalination (ISD) program, drought-proofing the home of the Emirates Melbourne Cup and saving millions of litres of drinking water each year.

Minister for Racing Dr Denis Napthine announced the Victorian Government would contribute half of the project’s required $1.8 million funding through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund, allowing approximately 150 mega litres of water to be sourced from an underground aquifer annually. The VRC is providing the remaining funding with support from City West Water.

“This is a landmark project for a landmark racecourse which will lead the way in water saving measures for racing and sporting venues in Victoria,” Dr Napthine said.

Mr Monteith said the ISD technology was established at Flemington, the site of the world’s only two operational ISD units.

“Until recently, in situ desalination has never been successfully implemented anywhere in the world. Using Flemington as a test bed for the technology, the VRC and Australian company Desalin8 completed 18 months of vigorous development work before the units became operational,” Mr Monteith said.

The announcement will see a further six ISD units installed in time for the 2012 Melbourne Cup Carnival. Flemington will also adopt aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) technology, allowing surplus desalinated water to be stored in a separate underground aquifer for retrieval at times of greater demand.

The initiative will fully service the considerable irrigation requirements of Flemington’s famous 2.3 kilometre course proper and training tracks.

In situ (underground) desalination has numerous environmental benefits over existing aboveground alternatives. A chemical free process, ISD uses approximately 50 per cent less power and eliminates the need for excess brine to be disposed of aboveground, which can cause salinity.

“The plans announced today will create tangible environmental benefits while providing a blueprint for water conservation that hasn’t existed until now, highlighting that Victoria and the VRC are not only world leaders in racing, but also environmental sustainability,” Mr Monteith said.

“I commend the Victorian Government and City West Water for their support of the innovative Flemington Water Strategy.”

Flemington Racecourse, a heritage-listed site, hosts the annual Melbourne Cup Carnival, which attracted over 350,000 racegoers and generated a gross benefit of over $728 million to the Australian economy last year alone.

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