As the demand for clean drinking water rapidly increases all over the world, countries are forced to get creative about how they manage their water.
In Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, 10 years of drought has decimated fresh water supplies available on land. As a result, Aussies are turning to the salt water ocean that surrounds them for hope, but success could be costly.
Australia’s five largest cities have embarked on a massive $13-billion plan to build desalination plants that can remove the salt from seawater and make it potable (Toronto Sun).
Melboure Water, a utility owned by the Victorian Government, serves a population of over 4 million people, the second most populous city in the country. The utility currently reports that their water storage supplies are at 34 percent.
To address their dwindling supply, Melboure Water has been piloting desalination feasibility experiments for over a year.
Water, water everywhere…
Some Australian residents are angry about the desalination projects, especially because they’re already seeing higher utility bills as a result. Environmentalists are concerned that the plants, capable of sucking millions of gallons of seawater from the surrounding oceans every day, require too much energy, and will only accelerate climate change.
With the devastation BP’s Gulf oil spill is causing on American shores, there are also concerns about whether it’s actually safe to drink desalinated sea water.
Most of the Australian plants utilize reverse osmosis, a method that involves pressurization, filtration and chemical treatment at several stages of the process in order to bring the water up to Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
A sign of the times?
Just because Australia is a uniquely isolated country doesn’t mean their water supply problems won’t be mimicked by other nations in the future. Aussie officials are convinced that the decade-long drought was deepend by climate change, and other countries, including the United States and China, are worried that this looming threat might affect their citizens next.
“We consider ourselves the canary in the coal mine for climate change-induced changes to water supply systems,” said Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia, told the New York Times. He described the $13.2 billion pricetag as “the cost of adapting to climate change.”
Dried up Waterways, North Eastern Australia
Image Credit: Flickr - hellsgeriatric