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Desalination on the Sea of Cortez

Proponents of desalination tout its potential to quench the thirst of a water-deprived civilization. The logic is compelling. If fresh water is in short supply, why not remove the salt from the vast oceans? With an estimated volume of 1.1 million billion acre feet (an acre foot is the amount of water volume that would cover one acre, one foot deep) of seawater, there will always be enough ocean.

For all its potential, desalination has yet to be a game changer. Worldwide freshwater consumption is estimated at 7.5 billion acre feet per year. Of that total, roughly 20,000 desalination plants worldwide produce an estimated 30 million acre feet of fresh water per year. That’s an awful lot of water, but it’s less than 1 percent of global water consumption.

Nonetheless, desalination plays an outsized role in arid coastal regions around the world. In Israel, for example, five massive desalination plants on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea produce nearly a half-million acre feet of fresh water per year, an amount the nation plans to double by 2030. Israel’s Sorek Desalination Plant, located a few miles south of Tel Aviv, produces 185,000 acre feet of fresh water per year, from a highly automated operation that occupies only about 25 acres. Approximately 80 percent of Israel’s municipal water comes from desalination, and this nation of 9 million people […] Read More