Volume 10 Issue 6 June

The Desalination Issue

By Kris Polly

As water resources come under increasing strain worldwide, the search is on for new sources of this precious resource. Desalination has been around for decades, but advances in the sophistication, affordability, and scale of the technology are giving it a more significant role. Countries in the Middle East and the Mediterranean are already using desalination heavily, providing interesting case studies for U.S. water providers who may be considering adding it to their portfolios.

In our cover story, International Desalination Association Executive Director Shannon McCarthy gives us a wide- ranging overview of the need for and use of desalination technologies worldwide. We discuss advances in the technology, large-scale applications abroad, and the prospects for adoption in the United States.

We continue discussing the technical and practical aspects of desalination in a conversation with Marshall Davert, Stantec’s executive vice president and global major pursuits director. We talk about desal’s costs and energy use and why it is likely to continue to increase in importance as part of utilities’ water portfolios.

Next, we look at one company that is working to combine two promising technologies: desalination and pumped storage. Energía y Agua de México plans to build multiple plants in the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California, which may present attractive sources of water for Colorado basin residents.

Desalination in countries such as Australia, Israel, and Saudi Arabia is well known, but readers may not be aware that Chile is also a significant desalinator. To learn more, we speak with Carlos Foxley, the president of the board of the Chilean Desalination Association.

Finally, we turn to the region where desalination is most vital with an interview with Kevin Price, the senior science and technology advisor at the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC). He tells us about MEDRC’s research and training programs and gives us a view into desalination in the Middle East and North Africa.

Desalination already exists on a relatively small scale in the United States, but it seems poised for significant expansion, especially in the Southwest. U.S. water managers can and should learn about the successes and challenges of the technology around the world. I hope that this issue is a useful resource in that mission.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He can be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.