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With Cape Town predicted to run out of water by April this year, and many other areas affected by drought, South Africa’s national and provincial governments have been actively evaluating alternatives for water supply in the country. The City of Cape Town drilled its first test borehole into the Cape Flats aquifer last week, and many coastal municipalities are looking into desalination plants.

Desalination plants set to increaseSouth Africa is not alone in its water shortages. A recent report indicates that the world’s fresh water supply is running out, and that desalination will grow as a market as many countries opt to use this method of providing water to citizens.

In the past, desalination has been so expensive that it has been last resort. Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Kuwait, for example, have been forced to get all or most of their water through desalination because there was no alternative.

The technology itself has been counter-productive, with desalination plants getting bigger, costs rising past the $1 billion mark, and oceanic wildlife being damaged. In most countries, the most competitive desalination technology remains reverse osmosis using electric pumps, with high electricity costs. In most cases, desalination plants have dealt with this by building fossil fuel plants on site or behind the grid connection.

According to Desalination: Off Grid Zero Emission 2018-2028, however, these drawbacks are being tackled very successfully. In fact, zero emission options are rapidly becoming lower cost than burning fossil fuels, and are increasingly being used in the desalination process, the report finds.

It predicts that, coming from very little in 2018, off grid zero emission desalination will be a rapidly growing $35 billion market in 2028. The research, which was carried out in 2017/8, covers new desalination and electricity technologies that will boost performance and reduce cost, as well as combinations of harvesting technologies for security of supply and minimising storage, among other focus areas.

“Desalination is practised in about 150 countries, with many more joining the fray. Demand is now so varied that plants of all sizes are now needed and in numbers and later volume of water, the medium and small ones may show greatest growth in future despite several monsters being planned,” the report states.

“Economy of scale can be more than a matter of making ever larger plants. Indeed these are already into diminishing returns. Economy of scale can also mean mass production of standard medium and small sized plants and that work has scarcely begun. With cyberattacks and weather shutting down grids in and their electricity prices typically rising, the dropping costs of off grid zero emission electricity are increasingly preferred, with the user enjoying both predictability and rapid adjustment.”

The full report is available at www.IDTechEx.com/desalination

Image credit: Copyright: kurga / 123RF Stock Photo

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