Desalination Not The Solution
Desalination 'not the solution'
Untapped resource: oceans contain 97% of the planet's water
Turning salt water into drinking water is not a solution to tackle global water scarcity, the WWF has said.
A report by the environmental group said a growth in the energy intensive technology would increase emissions and damage coastal and river habitats.
More attention should instead be paid to conserving supplies, it suggested.
The study was published as Australia announced plans to build one of the world's biggest desalination plants to supply drinking water to Melbourne.
"Desalinating the sea is an expensive, energy intensive and greenhouse gas emitting way to get water," said Jamie Pittock, director of WWF's global freshwater programme.
"It may have a place in the world's future freshwater supplies but regions still have cheaper, better and complementary ways to supply water that are less risky to the environment."
The report called for greater emphasis on managing existing supplies before the go-ahead was given to major water projects.
It added that new desalination plants, which were primarily located in coastal areas, should also be subject to tighter impact assessments to minimise damage to the marine environment.
Advances in technology meant that it was also possible to develop alternative "manufactured water" systems, such as treating waste water, the authors wrote.
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As I have written here before, I too believe that desalination (reverse osmosis process) is an expensive GHG emitting procedure that is simply a bandaid on a crisis that will not be solved by looking to methods that actually exacerbate the problem of emitting GHGs, particularly the Co2 that causes drought, wildfires, and water shortages.
In many cases it is only through the wasteful practices of humans that water becomes scarce. Seventy percent of the water that is wasted in this world is lost through wasteful irrigation practices. Why then is it easier for man to expend countless hours and dollars in building these huge desalination plants that do nothing to replace the water lost and threaten the habitat of other marine animals, instead of simply looking to their moral compasses and conserving what we have?
Is it because we simply do not wish to admit that we are the cause of this crisis?
However, that is not to say that I am against desalination as a process when it is absolutely necessary to provide water to people, as in the case of the Middle East where water scarcity makes it necessary to emply such methods. I personally prefer geothermal desalination as the best method to protect marine life and cut down on carbon emissions.
This report from the Pacific Institute dated last year is a totally comprehensive and expert analysis of desalination globally and in the United States with both pros and cons explained in detail. There is no doubt that as we head further into the 21st Century in a world where water will be in greater demand desalination can be a part of a water management plan if absolutely needed (especially regarding using it in agriculture to conserve fresh water for human use,) but certainly not as the solution to this crisis and at the expense of other species and our environment especially regarding the clean up process. Only moral courage to conserve and to devise ways to use irrigation water more effectively and funds more effectively to shore up substandard water systems can we find the balance necessary to preserve all life.
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