Desalination is not the answer

8 May 2012

Desalination is sometimes touted as the easy cure for our water woes, but it's not that simple.

Desalination is not the solution to drought. To be effective on a large scale it would require lots of new construction and, assuming that hurdle can be cleared, it is also an expensive and energy-intensive process. A national water grid would be similarly impractical, because water is heavy to transport and has a different ecological make-up in different areas, and its availability is unpredictable (although small-scale transfers between bordering water companies can form part of the solution).

Instead, alongside improving existing supply-side measures, and addressing leakage, we should all be wasting less water - both during the drought and in the future.

We know that as climate change bites harder there will be more people and less water. There are quick and easy fixes we can all put in place now. We can make sure we turn the tap off when we brush our teeth, knock a minute off shower time, and not use the toilet as a rubbish bin.

We can also fix leaky taps and install water-efficient showerheads and gadgets to reduce the amount of water each toilet flush uses. The government and water companies can help with this, by providing incentives, funding large-scale retrofit projects, and helping customers be more water-efficient.

We should also be recycling rainwater – the current downpour is the perfect reason to install a water butt.

Implementing cheap and simple measures now will ensure we are wasting less water in future. And as the population grows, and the pressures on our water supplies increase, cutting back on our everyday use of water should be a priority.

Looking to the future, we should be recycling rainwater and greywater in new homes and government buildings. But most of the homes that will be around in 2050 have already been built, and it’s not practical (or cost-effective) to install new plumbing systems in all of those now.

Rather we should be looking at taps, toilets and showers, water butts, and how we all use water in our homes and at work.

Waterwise can help you use less water.

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