Australia Today = U.S. Southwest by 2050? Searching For A Salt Free “Diet”

While the brutal drought has ended over large parts of Australia, we believe it is an instructive model both of what may transpire in the U.S. Southwest going forward as well as of means to address water shortages. As noted by Climate Progress, Australian consumers are obsessively reducing their demand for water — and yet:

“…water prices are set to double in the next five to 10 years….as the industry funds the significant capital works programs – some $30 billion over the next five to 10 years just in new water sources for urban Australia…”

This investment has already begun. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, a new desalination initiatives in Perth is giving desalination — the arduous process of removing salt from sea water — new clout:

“…Opened in late 2006, Perth’s $360 million desalination plant sucks in roughly 50,000 gallons of the Indian Ocean every minute. It then runs that water through special filters that separate out the salt, yielding some 25,000 gallons of drinkable water — enough to meet nearly a fifth of Perth’s current demand.

For decades, critics dismissed desalination as a costly boondoggle that burns colossal amounts of energy, including dirty fuels like coal. Technologically complex, it’s also far more expensive than tapping other water sources. The few major desalination plants that did make it to fruition went up mainly in the Middle East, which had energy — and money — to burn.

Perth’s facility squarely tackles both environmental and financial concerns. It gets around the issue of noxious emissions by harnessing power from a wind farm. By relying primarily on renewable energy — a recent trend in desalination — the plant releases fewer dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Upgraded systems remove salt more efficiently than past processes, making operating costs less daunting.

Despite higher water bills for consumers, officials here deem the project so successful that they plan to build a second, $875 million desalination plant. Once online, it will allow Perth to source as much as a third of its water from the ocean and significantly cut its dependence on rain-fed reserves.

…Perth’s plunge into desalination comes at a critical time, when water is emerging as the world’s next major natural-resources challenge. Water use, like oil, is surging as economic growth takes off in China, India and elsewhere. According to the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, about a fifth of the world’s population, or more than 1.2 billion people, already lives in areas with insufficient supply.

Due to changing rainfall patterns linked to climate change, many places — including parts of Australia, the American Southwest, India and Western Europe — are getting as much as 10% less rain than they used to. There’s also a global push to expand agriculture, the world’s biggest guzzler of water, to meet growing food and alternative energy demand…”
















This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 at 7:00 pm and is filed under Australia, News.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

Comments are closed.

© 2023 Water Politics LLC .  'Water Politics', 'Water. Politics. Life', and 'Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty World' are service marks of Water Politics LLC.