EghtesadOnline: Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian says tapping into the sea to produce potable water is on the agenda because it is more feasible for sustainable supplies rather than depleting drying underground resources.
"Feasibility studies to build new desalination plants to provide drinking water in the southern regions is over and work will commence soon," the minister was quoted as saying by the Energy Ministry news portal.
Estimated to cost $1 billion, the projects will cover almost 100 kilometers of the southern seashores and will be undertaken with the help of private companies, he said. No details were available.
According to Ardakanian, the plants, after removing excess saline and other minerals, will supply much-needed water to Fars, Sistan and Baluchestan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, Bushehr, Kerman, Khuzestan and Hormozgan provinces, Financial Tribune reported.
In the past six years, 39 desalination plants with a capacity of approximately 63.7 million cubic meters a year have become operational in the arid southern coasts.
Sixty desalination plants with a capacity of over 88.4 mcm per year are operating in different regions and construction of 25 desalinating units is underway, which after completion in 2021 will add 300,000 cubic meters of water to daily output.
Freshwater scarcity is already posing major problems for more than a billion people around the world, mostly in arid and semi-arid developing countries including Iran.
The World Health Organization predicts that by mid-century, four billion people -- nearly two-thirds of the world’s present population -- will face severe fresh water shortages.
Drought -- some of it driven by changing climate – is occurring in many regions in Iran that not long ago were perceived to have enough supplies, the minister said.
According to the International Desalination Association, globally more than 300 million people now get their water from desalination plants, from the United States to China.
The first large-scale de-sal plants were built in the 1960s, and now there are some 20,000 facilities globally that turn sea water into fresh.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with very little fresh water and cheap energy costs for the fossil fuels it uses in its de-sal plants, produces the most fresh water of any nation -- a fifth of the world’s total. Australia and Israel are also major players.
Energy experts say the practice of desalinating salt water is becoming more common worldwide because the cost of desalinated water has been coming down as technology evolves. In the last three decades, the cost of desalination has dropped by more than half.
The bottom line is that with global warming and climate change causing severe droughts, many countries around the world have no choice but to turn to the sea for their water, although this is still a fundamentally energy-ravenous technology.