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01 April 2010

Global water crisis and cheaper technology sparks surge in desalination

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Fresh water production increases to 9.5m cubic metres a day – twice the annual flow of the Thames – as one-third of world goes thirsty

The world's unquenchable thirst for clean water drove a record increase in the desalination and reuse of sewage last year, figures show, as water-stressed countries around the world try to build their way out of trouble.

Making fresh water from the sea was once the preserve of cruise ships and oil-rich Gulf states that could afford the huge cost of energy required to remove the salt. But as rivers, lakes and aquifers dry up, rains become less reliable, and the cost of desalination falls, communities in all parts of the world have begun to build and plan plants to turn oceans, estuaries, salty ground water and even sewage into clean water for factories, farms and homes.

The rise in fresh water production was the biggest ever recorded, reaching 9.5 cubic metres a day, the annual report by analysts Global Water Intelligence will say tomorrow. That is equivalent to twice the annual flow of the Thames, or about 10% of global capacity. Those desalinating and reusing water include some of the poorest countries, including Algeria, India and Ghana.

But wet overpopulated cities such as London and Dublin are also investing in the technology.


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