While desalination uses lots of energy, requires the dumping of concentrated saline wastewater into the ocean, and damages marine life by causing algal growth and pH changes, the process does have a few pros. Namely, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, the plant can be turned on and off as needed, and it can run at any level of production. Plus, there is an arguably unlimited supply of seawater to desalinate.
However, despite downing a glass of the stuff, I’m not convinced that desalination is a good long-term and viable technology to solve our global water shortages.
Some thirsty locales are overcoming debilitating energy prices by tapping into their solar resources. Using a clean power source addresses some of the environmental concerns surrounding desalination and creates opportunities for its use in remote locations. Since desalination plants don’t run continuously, the problem of storing solar power can be avoided.
These advantages all add up for Saltworks Technologies Inc. This BCbased firm is developing thermal powered desalination systems that reduce electrical energy requirements by up to 80 per cent, giving new meaning to “clean water”.
Desalination in the Middle East
Water has been a key point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But with Israel investing heavily in desalination infrastructure, reverse osmosis could relieve tension between the two parties.
Public financing of the Hadera Desalination Plant expansion will result in the cheapest fixed price for desalinated water achieved to date, NIS 2.6 per cubic metre ($0.74 CDN). With limited groundwater resources and continued investment, some experts have suggested that half of Israel’s water supply is likely to come from desalination in the future.