The need for sufficient and safe water is one of the significant development challenges of our time. Water is fundamental to life, and sustainable sources of fresh water are becoming seriously limited. Population growth, changing water consumption patterns, and climate change threaten fresh water supplies.
A significant problem is groundwater deterioration due to rising seawater levels associated with climate change and over-exploitation. In addition, surface water pollution is an emerging concern globally due to municipal, industrial, and agricultural wastewater.
These challenging conditions are reflected in the need for development towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on assuring availability and sustainable management of water, particularly concerning the universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. However, the latest report has shown that the world is not progressing, with over 2.8 billion people without access to safe drinking water.
Water is fundamental to life, and sustainable sources of fresh water are becoming seriously limited.
Seawater Desalination – The New Era
Seawater desalination has become the most suitable solution for providing fresh water to serve the continuously growing population and ensure water security. Yet, some environmentalists object to the development of desalination plants due to environmental impacts on the surrounding areas. As water desalination plants expand globally, they are required to meet sustainable developments goals. When considering desalination, we should weigh critical factors such as location, environmental impact, local regulations, etc.
Seawater desalination by reverse osmosis is the most common and cost-effective technology in the market. Its energy consumption has decreased dramatically and is equitable to the requirements of other water supply schemes such as conveying water to large distances and deep wells pumping. In addition, the increasing development of renewable energy sources and a recent study led by Southern Cross University in Australia found an unexpected benefit: the salty water discharge makes marine flora and fauna strive in that location.
Among the guidelines to complying with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2030 Agenda states that "international cooperation and the support provided to developing countries for training in activities and programs related to the water "Sanitation, including water harvesting, desalination, efficient use of water resources, wastewater treatment, recycling, and reuse technologies."
In terms of advances in desalination technology, recent advancements in desalination technology can reduce costs while dramatically improving performance and reliability. Furthermore, using renewable energies to power desalination processes has given a new outlook to the development of desalination technology.
Seawater desalination has become the most suitable solution for providing fresh water to serve the growing population
SWRO Desalination Plants and the Environment
Considering all the above, we must respect and strives to preserve the world around us. Therefore, IDE ensures that our plants fit our customers’ economic, environmental, and social plans. Thus, we are continuously improving energy efficiency and minimizing the impact on our surrounding environment. Through continual sustainable thinking and technological advancements, IDE has achieved the industry’s lowest energy consumption for all three dominant desalination technologies and industrial water treatment solutions while also reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
Our solutions have been designed to alleviate water challenges while minimizing environmental impact, and the company invests continuously to reduce the ecological footprint of its solutions.
As part of Israel's long-term water strategy, IDE was awarded the project for the design, construction, and operation of the Sorek 2 Desalination Plant. Due to be completed by 2023, this will be the world's largest desalination plant and is expected to produce 200 million cubic meters of water per year. Sorek 2 will support a high-priority water supply infrastructure in one of the world's most water-stressed nations and allow Israel to meet the increasing national demand.
In addition, the facility is designed with a climate change adaptation in mind to minimize the greenhouse gas impact. The plant's energy consumption is reduced by utilizing the best possible technology, such as highly efficient pumps and motors, variable frequency drives, energy-efficient Reverse Osmosis (RO) membranes, and isobaric chambers energy recovery devices. Moreover, the design and recovery stages of the RO system are optimized to reduce energy use.
Sorek 2 will positively influence and contribute to Israel's adaptation to climate change conditions in a water-stressed area. Further, IDE offered a particularly low water price of 1.45 NIS (equivalent to ~0.41 USD) (at the time of the bid), which is predicted to set a new benchmark for seawater desalination water prices on a global scale. Indirectly, Sorek 2 output will increase the availability of reused water for agricultural users, encouraging them to shift away from freshwater usage and reduce the pressure on underground aquifers.
It appears that Israel's best solution in terms of water supply is using new water resources such as desalinated water.
The Carlsbad desalination plant is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and is a complete game-changer for desalination in the US. The facility provides clean water to about 300,000 people and generates over $50m annually for the regional economy.
The Carlsbad Desalination Plant won the prestigious Desalination Plant of the Year award at the 2016 Global Water Awards. The plant overcame significant practical, regulatory, and economic hurdles to deliver a cost-effective and environmentally friendly water supply.
The Carlsbad SWRO project protects the sensitive marine environment and meets all the strict regional environmental regulations. The innovative technology used within the plant includes an advanced pretreatment stage that operates at higher efficiency and with reduced energy consumption, producing high-quality feed water to the membranes. Additionally, the plant is the first Californian infrastructure project to reduce its carbon footprint –achieved through the implementation of state-of-the-art energy recovery technology and an external energy offsetting program.
The Carlsbad desalination plant
Seawater Desalination as a Solution
When addressing water supply in water-scarce regions, seawater desalination can be considered an important strategy. Desalination is vital for many countries, and the dependence on this source is expected to grow fast. This growth will only be achievable by implementing sustainable related technologies such as hybrid desalination, neutral carbon footprint desalination, and improved equipment.
We must keep addressing and protecting human health and the environment. The good news is that progress is made every day, and we continuously see positive and encouraging possibilities, using advanced technologies to decrease costs, increase sustainability, and reduce brine discharge. For example, advanced pretreatment methods can reduce chemical consumption and increase membrane lifespan.
The innovation of SW desalination lies in the technology component and its sustainable potential to protect the environment. As climate change and population growth continue to stress the earth’s limited water resources, we must strive to make significant steps in seawater desalination and other water treatment technologies to meet the world’s growing demand for clean and safe water.