6 Advantages and Disadvantages of Desalination

Desalination is the process of removing dissolved salts from water. Also called as desalting or desalinization, it’s actually naturally present in the environment, particularly in the process of evaporation in which water from the ocean forms water vapor and leaves salt behind. It also has been utilized by humans for many centuries. Greek philosopher Aristotle mentioned seawater desalination in his writings, while navigator James Cook used this process to produce drinking water during his travels.

Desalination has been proposed as a solution to end or at least minimize the shortage of freshwater, but many also argue that it has several drawbacks. If you’re not sure which side to take, here’s a list of some of the pros and cons of desalination:

List of Advantages of Desalination

1. It provides people with potable water.
This is perhaps one of the biggest and most important benefits of desalination. By removing dissolved salts and other minerals from seawater, it can be turned to freshwater that’s ideal for drinking. This can be a solution for many areas around the world that are experiencing droughts, such as California and certain countries in the African continent.

2. It provides water to the agricultural industry.
Desalination doesn’t only produce potable water but also water that can be used for irrigation, which is great for arid regions as well as areas that are going through drought. Since they’ll have the chance to produce their own crops, they won’t be too dependent on imports and they’ll get to improve their economy. They can also produce enough food for their residents and keep hunger at bay.

3. It uses tried-and-tested technology.
Unlike other water purifying processes, desalination is well past the research stage and has in fact been in use for several decades now. Because of this, it’s considered to be a safe, workable, and reliable process that has been tried and tested in many applications by numerous experts over the years.

List of Disadvantages of Desalination

1. It consumes a large amount of energy.
Opponents of desalination point out that it’s not a feasible solution to water supply problems mainly because it requires so much energy. Distillation, for example, requires millions of gallons saltwater to be boiled at high temperatures before it can become potable. Reverse osmosis, meanwhile, uses a lot of energy to overcome the natural osmosis process and remove large particles from seawater using a semipermeable membrane.

2. It can be costly.
Desalination plants can be expensive to build because of the equipment and machines they require and can range between $300 million to almost $3 billion. They can also be expensive to keep up since, as mentioned above, they require a lot of energy to complete the desalination process. According to studies, desalinated water is five times more expensive to harvest than freshwater, making it too costly for the average consumer.

3. It can be harmful for the environment.
Desalination produces freshwater, but it’s also important to remember that it essentially removes salt from seawater — salt that has to be disposed in one way or another. The problem with this is that chlorine and other chemicals are often added to the water during processing and left behind with the brine which, if dumped back to the ocean, brings with it many harmful substances that can destroy the marine ecology.

Final Thought

Desalination has both advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to weigh these first to determine if this water purification process is worth investing in or not.