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Are Desalination Plants Solution to World’s Fresh Water Crisis?

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-L-DESALTo make ocean salt water drinkable- this is the ultimate dream of numerous researchers and engineers. And many of them have already made quite an attempt to do so.

You do not need to search hard in order to find out more about all the incredible desalination technologies that have been regularly popping-up on every new feed for the past years, you just need to type the key word into our site’s search box and you get numerous hits. Desalination Plants are emerging in many parts of the world from Australia, Quatar, Algeria all the way to the US, some even taking a step further into using solar and the power of waves to get the process going.

But the number of existing facilities is nowhere near sufficient to be able to prevent the horrific UN predictions that in 10 years from now, there will be no fresh water for two-thirds of the population.  Having said that, it comes as no surprise that a new desalination plant is now under construction in Carlsbad, California and should open its doors in 2016. The facility will take the discharged cool seawater used to cool down the nearby Encina power plant, and turn it into fresh drinking water.

For many, turning to the oceans seems like the only possible solution to the problem of scarce water resources. In the US, the desalination practice is mostly popular in states like Texas, Florida and California, where continuous droughts and proximity of the coastal region, provide the need and means for such facilities. However, many countries located in arid coastal regions, such as Israel, already depend heavily on desalination plants, meeting as much as half of their fresh water needs in this way.

Of course, as it is with every similar technology, there is a huge discussion taking place with environmentalists claiming that the process of desalination takes too much energy and endangers marine life, while the opposing parties see only log-term benefits. Regardless of which side you are on, however, huge questions still remain unanswered, especially when it comes to money. The amount of energy needed for the conversion process can add as much as $5 million per year only to maintain one single plant, which of course makes people wonder, how much the price of the desalinated water is going to be in the end. Predictions state that in not more than 20 years, the price of natural fresh water will be a lot higher than that of desalinated one, but we can not be sure for now.

I any case, many see it as the only solution, especially when reoccurring droughts are no longer a prediction for the future by some scientists that people conveniently choose not to believe. These are happening now, and action should be taken now- no later, no tomorrow.  Maybe indeed desalination plants are the way to go- especially if they are powered by solar.

Image (c) Media News Group

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Inventzilla no, education of women has been proven to keep birth rates manageable, but education takes too long, perhaps something more draconian, like mass sterilization :/

    i’m joking about sterilization, but totally not joking about education. advanced nations have lower birth rates, at least from what I recall, as directly related to the level of education given their women.

  2. Solar desalination plants like in the Middle East are probably the best compromise, so that they also produce the power they need to run, instead of paying $5M a year just for electricity. The need for fresh water is mostly felt in dry sunny regions, where solar seems a natural and logical answer.
    And about that cost, in some cases we are comparing something which is priceless, because it just does not exist in certain regions and could create an oasis of life and civilization in otherwise deserted areas. Very cheap if you ask me…
    If we pump enough of it, we might even slow down a tiny bit the floods in Miami Beach, these floods have a huge cost too.

    But my main argument for more desalination everywhere is irrigation. Look for instance at the average yield of wheat: The U.S. comes around number #50, because most of it is grown in drylands. Better make that frylands now, with global warming. All countries in the top 10 are countries like Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, which all benefit from lots of rain. In these days of rising population, it seems an aberration and a terrible waste to grow crops on non-irrigated lands. So we should probably have inland desalination plants too, like in the Midwest where it is most needed. Crops don’t need water during harvest or winter, so the water could be used to replenish the depleted aquifers, or the solar panels could be used to provide electricity to the grid, which would be a good thing because solar electricity production is lower in winter, so more solar panels available mean more clean solar electricity produced globally.

    There are probably many other advantages to desalination that offset the high cost, and the fresh water could even be used to clean the dusty solar panels and recycled. Yes, it’s not efficient, but solar energy is basically free once the array is paid back, with only minimal maintenance costs.

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