Environmentally sound desalination at the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant

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Courtesy of Energy Recovery Inc

Abstract
Water scarcity is recognized as a significant problem in Australia and throughout the world. Yet the demand for fresh water continues to grow, driven by the need for drinking water to satisfy the world’s growing population, changing weather patterns, an increasing need for water for agriculture and industry and the concentration of populations in urban areas that lack sufficient fresh water resources. Water scarcity can be addressed, in part, through conservation efforts and better use of conventional resources. However, resource limits and the environmental impacts associated with increased use of surface water limit the viability of these options. At the same time, seawater reverse osmosis desalination has emerged as an affordable and environmentally preferable water resource.
The city of Perth recently increased its water supply capacity through implementation of the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant (PSDP). This plant and others around the world incorporate low-energy membranes, high-efficiency pumps and isobaric energy recovery devices to reduce energy consumption. The cost of water production can be comparable to or less than that of new conventional sources of supply. The energy consumption of PSDP is carbon neutral, meaning that it is 100% offset with renewable energy. In addition, its brine discharge has been shown to have no adverse impact on the environment.

The authors discuss water scarcity and demand in an Australian context. The design and operation of the Perth plant are presented as a standard for seawater reverse osmosis plants and a model for sustainable water production from the sea.

Introduction
Water scarcity is recognized as a significant problem in Australia and throughout the world. Yet the demand for fresh water continues to grow, driven by the need for drinking water to satisfy the world’s growing population, changing weather patterns, an increasing need for water for agriculture and industry and the concentration of populations in urban areas that lack sufficient fresh water resources. Humanity now uses more than half of the available surface fresh water on earth. (Lubchenco 1998) In 2003, the United Nations Population Fund predicted that global consumption will increase by 40% by 2025. (UNPF 2003) A study conducted by the International Water Management Institute projects that by 2025, 33% of the population of the developing world will face severe water shortages. (WMI 2000) The uneven geographic distribution of fresh water supplies compounds this problem; at least 300 million people live in regions that already have severe water shortages. By 2025, the number could be 3 billion. (Simon 1998).

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