Change Alley

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Desalination And Its Discontents

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The Worldwide Fund For Nature (WWF) has published a report on the global adoption of desalination as a means of compensating for shortages of fresh water. In ‘Making Water – Desalination: option or distraction for a thirsty world?’, WWF lays out the down side of desalination. As well as being a highly energy-intensive process, it is responsible for brine build-up, increased greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of priceless coastal habitats, and reduced emphasis on conservation of rivers and wetlands. Many areas of most intensive desalination activity also have a history of damaging natural water resources, particularly groundwater.

The irony is that the greenhouse emissions due to the energy inputs to desalination are a key driving factor in causing further water shortages through climate change and disruption of the global water cycle.

At least someone’s listening. London mayor Ken Livingstone has briefed his legal team to consider a challenge to Thames Water’s proposed £200m desalination plant at Beckton in East London. Following the Government’s statement that it was “minded to approve” the planning application, Ken said in a press release:

“Building a desalination plant sends the wrong signal. We should be encouraging people to use less water, not more. An extra £200 million on Londoner’s water bills for a technology more appropriate for the desert is a disgrace.

“Last summer we managed to save nearly three times more water than this plant can make through our drought campaigns, a much cheaper and far more sustainable solution to our water supply problems.”

This one could run and run.


Written by Pete Smith

June 24, 2007 at 12:42 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Ken is an impressive London leader on environmental issues. I believe the Tory attempt to limit the number of mayoral terms for any one person to two failed. Roll on Ken.


    June 24, 2007 at 2:58 pm

  2. >Many areas of most intensive desalination activity also have a history of
    >damaging natural water resources, particularly groundwater.

    Sounds like Perth, we love our desalination and groundwater extraction 😦

    If only Perth’s govt was:
    >encouraging people to use less water
    We have advertising telling people to, but that just reminds ppl to turn off their reticulation when its raining (yes, ppl water their garden when its raining in perth)


    June 26, 2007 at 4:33 am

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