Facts about Desalination
Desalination is often considered as a solution to the world’s water scarcity issues, but it’s important to consider the facts before fully embracing it.
Industrialization of coast lines
Large industrial desalination complex along the coastline of Dubai.
1. Heavy Carbon Footprint
Desalination requires a large amount of energy, mostly from fossil fuels, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbates climate change. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), desalination accounts for 0.5% of global electricity consumption and emits around 76 million tons of CO2 per year.
2. Harms Marine Ecosystem
Seawater intake and brine discharge from desalination plants cause significant harm to marine ecosystems. Intake screens can trap and kill small organisms, and the discharge of concentrated brine can create dead zones where marine life cannot survive.
3. Can Lead to Water Scarcity
Desalination plants can lead to water scarcity in neighboring areas by drawing water from rivers or aquifers, which can exacerbate the impacts of droughts or reduce the amount of water available for agriculture and drinking purposes.
4. Very Expensive
Desalination is very expensive compared to other water supply options. The costs of desalination vary depending on the type of technology used, the size of the plant, and the location. According to the International Desalination Association, the cost of desalinated water can range from $0.50 to $5 per cubic meter, which is higher than the cost of most other water sources.
5. Fossil Fuel Dependency
Most desalination plants rely on fossil fuels to power the process, making them vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply disruptions.
6. Desalination Plants Threaten Wildlife Habitats
Desalination plants require a large amount of land, which can lead to habitat loss and displacement of wildlife.
7. Environmental Impacts of Brine Disposal
The disposal of concentrated brine, a byproduct of desalination, can pose a challenge. If not properly managed, brine discharge can cause harm to marine life and impact water quality. Brine discharges increase heavy metal concentrations in the outfall area.
8. Increase in Algal Blooms
The discharge of chemical-rich brine can lead to an increase in algal blooms, which can harm marine life and impact water quality.
9.Impact on Ocean Water Quality
Desalination can result in water quality issues, such as increased salinity, pH changes, and the presence of disinfection byproducts.
10. Impact on Local Communities
The construction and operation of desalination plants can have social and cultural impacts, including the displacement of communities and disruption of traditional fishing practices.
- International Energy Agency. (2020). Energy Technology Perspectives 2020. Paris, France: IEA.
- United Nations Environment Programme. (2019). Desalination: a sustainable future? Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP.
- International Desalination Association. (2021). Cost of Water. Retrieved from https://www.idadesal.org/cost-of-water.
- World Wildlife Fund. (2021). Desalination. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/desalination.
- Marine Pollution Bulletin https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X22002818