Photo by prilfish via Flickr Creative Commons
Desalination technology -- turning brackish or salt water into fresh water -- has been a hotly debated issue for years. The main problem is that the technology is incredibly energy intensive, and there for financially and environmentally expensive. However, as water supplies run short, desalination is looking more attractive. So, innovators are coming up with ways to make the process more energy efficient and reduce the environmental impact of plants. As desalination nears a boom phase, investments in plants are set to jump over just the next five years, according to new data from Pike Research. Pike Research has found that the cost of running a desalination plant is falling as technologies improve, and the lower costs are making plants look more attractive to investors. The research firm states that new construction for plants will create a cumulative global investment of $87.8 billion between 2010 and 2016.
From improved membranes filtering salts out of water to energy recovery units to improve the energy bill for a plant, new technology is making desalination look like an ideal option for coastal areas experiencing water shortages, such as California. Reuters reports that the state is likely to lead the country in implementing desalination plants to meet the states water needs.
While it may be the next big thing for the water industry, it might not be best environmental move. Smart water technologies such as improved metering, water conservation technologies for everything from data centers to irrigation systems, and improved policies from agriculture to manufacturing are the first place to start for crafting a future complete with sustainable water supplies. In some cases, desalination is the only solution for certain communities. But not in all cases...or even in most. Desalination has a long way to go before it can be considered a sustainable, environmentally friendly source of water. However, in true band-aid fashion, it seems rather than fix our poor water use practices, money will simply poured into desalination plants to provide more water now.
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