Clean Water from the Sea |
Carlsbad, California desalination plant |
The Sorek desalination plant in Tel Aviv, Israel |
The two desalination plants featured in this article; one in Carlsbad (north coastal San Diego county), California, and one in Tel Aviv, Israel, represent two of the pioneering large-scale desalination plants in the world using reverse osmosis.
Desalination represents a significant strategy among the various solutions to the world water crisis; along with wastewater treatment/ treated wastewater infrastructure, and mass distribution of water filters to the poor, especially in 3rd world countries (and low socioeconomic areas in general). Desalination is a current technology that helps provide vital clean water to people globally. According to statistics from Our World in Data:
- Unsafe water is responsible for 1.2 million deaths each year.
- 6% of deaths in low-income countries are the result of unsafe water sources.
- 666 million (9% of the world) does not have access to an improved water source [for basic household needs like cooking and cleaning].
- 2.1 billion (29% of the world) do not have access to safe drinking water.
Carlsbad and Tel Aviv Desal. Plants
The desalination plant in Tel Aviv provides 20% of the clean water the people in the entire country of Israel use; and the Carlsbad desalination plant provides 10% of the clean water San Diego county residents use. Although Carlsbad and Tel Aviv don’t represent the struggles with water scarcity in the third world specifically, the desal. plants in those locations do represent solutions to the growing need for clean water in the world as a whole. Both plants use a technology called reverse osmosis as part of the process of water purification. Here are a few articles about the desalination plants in Carlsbad and Tel Aviv, and desalination in general:
The largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere [as of the date in this article] is open in Carlsbad, San Diego, heralding what may be a new era in U.S. water use.
Global desalination output has tripled since 2000: 16,000 [large and small-scale] desalination plants are up and running around the world [now, a few years after this article was originally published, it's over 20,000], and the pace of construction is expected to increase while the technology continues to improve. Desalination is ripe for technological improvement. A combination of sensor-driven optimization and automation, energy-efficient technology that is said to nearly halve energy consumption, plus new types of membranes, could eventually allow for desalination plants that are half the size and use commensurately less energy. Among other benefits, small, mobile desalination units could be used in agricultural regions hundreds of miles away from the ocean, where demand for water is great and growing. Already, some 700 million people worldwide suffer from water scarcity, but that number is expected to swell to 1.8 billion in just 10 years. Some countries, like Israel, already rely heavily on desalination; more will follow suit.
10 miles south of Tel Aviv, Israel, a vast new industrial facility hums around the clock. [The Sorek desalination plant in Tel Aviv] provides 20% of the water consumed by the country’s households. Thanks to a series of engineering and materials advances, however, it produces clean water from the sea cheaply and at a scale never before achieved, demonstrating that seawater desalination can cost-effectively provide a substantial portion of a nation’s water supply.
Desal. Plants Globally
The desalination plant in Carlsbad served as a pioneering project for large-scale desalination projects in the United States, of which there are now dozens, in addition to hundreds of smaller desalination projects in the United States. In the entire world there are over 120 countries with desalination plants, the largest of which are in Saudi Arabia, with a comparatively large-scale plant in the United Arab Emirates. The Ras Al Khair desalination plant in Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest desalination plant.
There are over 20,000 desalination plants under development or fully operational worldwide, with over half of the major global desalination plants located in the Middle East. The Carlsbad desalination plant now has company, especially with a couple of other desalination plants in California, in the industry sector of large-scale municipal desalination plants in the United States, as depicted in the following global map of major desalination plants–