The Recent Surge in Desalination Plants

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Written By: Emma Websdale

According to the United Nations, approximately 67% of the world’s population will be water stressed by 2025, and already 900 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Without the adoption and implementation of water-efficient strategies and technologies, competition for water sources will increase agricultural, domestic, industrial and environmental purposes, driving up the cost of water.

5944699030_f6711a6737_oWith climate change accelerating drought and changing water patterns, and with population growth continuing, countries are increasingly exposed to water shortage issues. This puts greater emphasis on the need to conserve natural water resources. It is no wonder, therefore, that some countries recently plagued by water issues are ramping up their use of desalination technologies.

The recent surge in proposals, bidding and deployment of desalination plants reflects an awareness of the climate-proof potential for desalination and its capacity to separate industrial water demand from public water supplies.

For example, in an effort to protect the vulnerable central portion of the U.S.’s West Coast from drought, a desalination plant is currently under construction in Carlsbad, Calif. Once it is operational in 2016, the plant will produce 50 million gallons of fresh drinking water daily. This plant will join others in the Central West Coast area: Diablo Canyon Power Plant, a smaller desalination plant currently producing 500,000 gallons of fresh water daily, and plants in Sand City, Santa Catalina Island and San Nicholas Island.

Elsewhere, Australia has begun using its first large-scale desalination plant, which has become Perth’s biggest single water source, producing up to 45 gigaliters per year.

In November, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also announced that it would establish the world’s largest solar-powered desalination plant, which will have the capacity to produce 22 million gallons of drinkable water on a daily basis. The new plant, set to operate in Ras al-Khaimah, will also generate 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity, making it one of the world’s greenest desalination plants with the lowest amount of carbon dioxide emissions.

2219600497India has long faced issues of water scarcity. In an attempt to alleviate one of the country’s worst areas of water stress, Kumbalangia, Union minister Professor Kuruppasserry Varkey Thomas has proposed the construction of a desalination plant. If accepted, the plant will produce fresh drinking water, along with some reported element of electricity.

Northern Chile is also seeking approval to build a water desalination project. The reverse-osmosis plant, proposed by the Florida water company Seven Seas Water Corp., aims to build the plant near the city of Caldera to treat the Bahia Caldera Fishery’s industrial waste.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, seeking to expand its desalinated water resources, is set to produce two major plants in 2014. When complete, the two plants combined will produce 28,000 cubic meters of water daily.

Finally, just operational this December is China’s first wind-powered desalination plant, which now produces 2.5 million gallons of fresh drinking water a day for the coastal city of Dafeng.

With desalination plants becoming more economically viable as the technology improves, desalination holds vast potential for reducing carbon emissions and helping to alleviate water stress around the globe.

For more information on how desalination works, alongside its applications, you can visit our corporate website here.