6 Advantages and Disadvantages of Desalination Plants

Human beings, as well as animals, need fresh water to survive. Living on a planet that comprises 70% water, this should not be much of a problem. But unfortunately, most of this water is salt water and not fresh. Now, with drought affecting many regions of the world, freshwater supplies are becoming scarce and we are coming up with solutions to the problem—one of them is building desalination plants, which is already done by some countries today. While these facilities truly show some promise, they also come with some drawbacks. Let us take a look at their advantages and disadvantages.

List of Advantages of Desalination Plants

1. They provide accessible drinking water.
Desalination plants are built to supply drinking water to regions where no potable water exists, like some of the islands in the Caribbean and Saudi Arabia. In countries where freshwater is plentiful, but still have drier regions affected by drought, these facilities are installed to provide water.

2. They use a method that has been proven effective.
The method used by these plants—reverse osmosis—to remove salt from seawater has been proven effective in creating fresh sources of drinking water that can be delivered to those in need. When properly designed and installed, these facilities will be able to create drinkable water that is of high quality.

3. They help with habitat protection.
Generally meeting the standards for water quality, these plants can reduce pressure on freshwater sources that are protected or needing protection. As they treat seawater, instead of removing water from freshwater sources, they also help with preserving habitats for endangered species. It is even said that seeing the ocean as a source of water supply might increase public awareness in protecting the ocean.

List of Disadvantages of Desalination Plants

1. They require high costs to construct and operate.
Depending on their location, desalination plants can be very costly to construct and operate, with construction costs ranging from $300 million to $2.9 billion, according to 2008 reports. Once these facilities start operating, they require huge amounts of funds in the long run for the energy they use. And, these costs will be greatly affected by energy price changes.

2. They require huge amounts of energy.
As previously mentioned, desalination will take enormous amounts of energy to be able to operate. While distillation involves heating huge volumes of water to boiling temperatures before being recollected and used, reverse osmosis is no better because it is very energy demanding. This is why opponents argue that the energy costs of these plants are just too high to be a long-term solution.

3. They create a harmful impact on the environment.
Removing salt from seawater is a major issue. The waste it produces, known as brine, is said to change the salinity and amount of oxygen in the water at the disposal sites, which can stress out or kill animals that are not used to the higher levels of salt.

To know whether or not it is of the best interest of a community to install a desalination plant, we should weigh down the advantages and disadvantages first. We need freshwater to survive, and this plant could be the solution for us!

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.