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Desalination Plants Could Halt the Growing Water Crisis

In the wake of incidents such as the “Day Zero” drought that saw Cape Town’s taps almost run dry, even the most ardent naysayers will find it hard to deny the world is facing a severe water crisis. As nations have become more industrialised, consumption has increased to a point where conservative measures are rapidly becoming a necessity rather than an option. Interestingly, it was a desalination plant and not an eleventh-hour, torrential rainstorm that helped save South Africa’s Mother City from disaster.

The idea of removing the salts present in seawater to render it potable is not new. The sailors of ancient Greece boiled seawater to separate its salt content by evaporation. The process allowed them to undertake longer voyages between successive landfalls. The Romans employed a different approach, filtering it through clay to achieve the same result. Despite several counterclaims, the evidence suggests that Fort Tigné in the Maltese town of Sliema was the site of the world’s first commercial desalination plant when the disused premises were re-purposed in 1881.

Like this early development, subsequent structures remained dependent upon evaporative methods to obtain potable water from the sea until relatively recently. The technology is straightforward and has been used to prepare alcoholic beverages for centuries. The steam from boiling water is free of all dissolved solids, and when it comes into contact with a cold surface, it condenses to form pure water. Unfortunately, heating the vast volumes of water required to supply a community requires equally vast amounts of energy. However, a desalination plant could avert a life-threatening crisis. Not surprisingly, many countries, especially desert nations, have been quick to embrace various forms of distillation technology, despite the attendant high production costs.

While still unable to beat the cost per litre of a typical conventional water treatment facility, membrane technology has been gaining ground in the quest to extract drinking water from our oceans and brackish regions. More specifically, reverse osmosis (RO) appears to be on track to supersede distillation as the method of choice to operate a desalination plant. The RO option requires only a fraction of the energy necessary to boil seawater to power pumps and auxiliary equipment. Furthermore, reverse osmosis technology is also highly scalable, making it a feasible option for small-scale operations and high-capacity commercial projects.

Inevitably, continued advances will see the product cost fall, and it could even become cheaper than recycled water. Are you looking for a leading designer and manufacturer of water purification systems, including RO-based desalination plants? For world-class turnkey solutions to meet your water treatment needs, contact the experts at Watericon.