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Desalination in Australia and Saudi Arabia

Desalination is simply the processing of salty water into usable fresh water. This aims at exploiting the 94% of world waters that are salty. Globally, around 125 countries employ the process which began during the 2nd world war. Australia and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that in most cases have sought the direct involvement of the government as the process requires a large amount of initial capital outlay. Growing demand for clean and fresh water and the dwindling of natural fresh water resources has necessitated advancement in the desalination process.

Whereas the process may involve desalination of soil in order to make it more conducive for agriculture, the water process is the most common worldwide. The efficiency of the process is commonly measured with the amount of energy involved in the process i. e. the cost of processing impure water to that of transporting fresh water from other natural water resources and the percentage of fresh water recovered. This paper will thus focus on analyzing the efficiency of the desalination process in Australia as compared to that of Saudi Arabia.

Discussion Australia has 46 desalination plants each with a capacity of over 10 kL/day with a total of 294 ML/day. This is expected to hit 450 GL/year by 2013 as more plants are under construction (Hoang, Bolto, Haskard, Barron, Gray and Leslie; 2009). Pressed the high cost of energy, Australia’s growth in desalination is driven by high technology aimed at lowering the costs of water through efficient energy use. Avivapure say that water costs in Australia range between $4. 50 and $22 per 1000 liters.

In Australia, feed sources exploited are 86% seawater, 1. 2% brackish water and 12% industrial and domestic effluent. The water recoveries levels vary at 20-42% for a seawater feed and usually 61-95% for brackish and low salinity feed waters. The variation is due to the differences in the types and amount of the compounds dissolved in the water. Salt is the most common residue which is disposed back into the sea. Harmful chemicals such as lead are also processed adequately to avert reintroduction into the water resources.

The plants installed use different technologies. These range from membrane processes (electrodialysis and reverse osmosis), evaporative (multistage flash distillation, multi effect distillation, vapor compression distillation and alternative processes such as freeze desalination and solar humidification. All these processes have been employed in creating employment in the various plants and making fresh water available for domestic, industrial and agricultural use. The processing of effluent is also a step forward in environmental conservation.

(Introduction to desalination technologies in Australia, 2002, p 5). Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest desalination plant with 30 plants nationwide producing 21% of the world’s desalinated water. This may be attributed to the fact that the county has large oil reserves that power the process and again also due to the aridity of the country. As such the cost of water in Australia is higher than Saudi Arabia. According to a survey in 2005, the cost of processing water in Perth is 0. 90 US$/kL while in Shaoiba Saudi Arabia is 0.

73 US$/kL (Hoang et al 2009, p 2). The pre-treatment of the feed waters in both countries highly contested by environmentalists on the grounds of polluting the environment as the residue water is turned back into the sea which in most cases contains traces of biocides and chlorine used in pretreatment. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has incorporated desalination with energy production such as the new plant under construction at Jubail that will have a capacity of 800,000 cubic meters of water per day and 2,750 megawatts of electricity.

Conclusion Australia has a relatively higher number of natural fresh water resources as compared to Saudi Arabia. Again the population in the Arab nation is slightly higher and hence the higher need for desalination. Increased demand for fresh water in both countries and changes in climatic conditions has led to establishment of more desalination plants and use of better technology in the process.

Apart from increasing the number of plants, technology should also be directed at increasing the efficacy levels of the existing plants to increase water recovery levels. As such, funds that could have been used in the process are made available for other uses. References Hoang, M. , Bolto, B. , Haskard, C. , Barron, O. , Gray, S. and Leslie, G. 2009. Desalination in Australia, http://www. csiro. gov. au/resources/Desalination-In-Australia-Report. html, (Accessed 2009-07-07) Introduction to Desalination Technologies in Australia (2002)

http://www. environment. gov. au/water/publications/urban/desalination-summary. html, (Accessed 2009-07-07) Water technology Shoaiba Desalination Plant, Saudi Arabia, http://www. water-technology. net/projects/shuaiba/, (Accessed 2009-07-07) Saudi Arabia to Join Bahrain in Drive for Desalination, http://www. circleofblue. org/waternews/2009/world/saudi-arabia-to-join-bahrain-in-drive-for-desalination/, (Accessed 2009-07-07) Aviva pure http://www. avivapure. com. au/Home. aspx, (Accessed 2009-07-07)

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