Desalination Getting Greener

As the population rapidly grows in places like the American Southwest and the Middle East, the demand for clean water is spurring additional investments in water technologies. Earlier this year Orange County brought online a reverse osmosis water reclamation plant to clean sewage water, and the United Arab Emirates recently signed a contract with Veolia Water for a reverse osmosis desalination plant in Qidfa, Fujairah.

The $115 million contract with Veolia Water, a subsidiary of French Veolia Environnement (VE), is part of the F2 Independent Water and Power Project. The plant, scheduled to be completed by 2010, will desalinate 136,500 cubic meters per day. Additionally, the project will include a 2,000 megawatt power plant to power the energy intensive process of reverse osmosis, whereby salt water is forced through a membrane against the osmotic gradient, separating the water and the salts.

In the U.S., a large barrier to water technologies is an aging and insufficient infrastructure. Water transport is far more expensive than that of electricity: the EPA estimates the country will have to spend up to a trillion dollars to upgrade its water infrastructure over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, developing countries will have to start installing public water works. That is a huge opportunity for new water technologies to provide new, cheap sources of clean water.


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