Desalination Pros and Cons List

Fresh water is very important for people and animals to drink. With our planet being made up of 70% water, this should not be much of a problem. However, most of this is salt water, and not fresh. Also, around 20% of fresh water in the world is found in the Amazon Basin alone, which means that other regions can easily experience water crisis. This is when desalination is being considered as an option by many countries to produce usable water.

This process removes salt and other particles from seawater, brackish water and other types of waste water. Though it is seen as a necessary process especially when there is rapid population increase and drought, it has surprisingly become a very controversial issue, where opposing sides have very strong opinions on the technology and its purpose. On our end, we can come up with a good decision whether desalination is more helpful to society by looking closely at its pros and cons.

List of Pros of Desalination

1. It is proven and effective.
The method of reverse osmosis to remove salt from seawater has been proven to be effective in creating a fresh source of drinking water that is needed in delivering the health benefits to people. When designed properly, desalination plants can create water that is of good quality and drinkable.

2. It has the massive ocean water as source.
Even if all water would come from desalination plants, seawater can serve as source that is almost inexhaustible. This implies that people would have sufficient access to freshwater needed for growing crops, for everyday living and other needs, even in times of drought.

3. It can stop water crisis.
Because there is so much supply of seawater that is highly accessible, desalination could stop water crises experience in many parts of the world. Again, it means the technology could bring an end to problems caused by drought. We would always have access to the water, so we can take care of our basic needs.

4. It can preserve our current freshwater supply.
Due to the fact that supply of freshwater on our planet is limited, we should do what we can to preserve it as much as possible. By doing so, there will be more resources that we can use when there will be water scarcity at hand.

5. Its plants are built in safe locations.
Desalination plants are and will be located away from large residential communities. Some of those already existing today are located in industrial facilities, which mean that people are not put at risk. Companies that are planning to construct desalination plants have plans in place to make the projects safer in the long run. On the other hand, just a single plant can supply over 500 million liters of water that is good for drinking, which is a considerably high amount, changing the way we obtain water.

List of Cons of Desalination

1. It can be a very costly process.
The average desalination plant these days takes 2 kWh of energy to produce 1 cubic meter of freshwater. Though this translates to a cost of below USD2 on most power grids, the production’s real expense is coming from the costs of fossil fuels that are used for creating the electricity the plant requires to operate.

2. Its plants are expensive to build.
Though most plants’ operations cost reasonably, building them is not always feasible for a country or a community. The cost is very high that some authorities prevented the technology to be developed because they just cannot afford its initial investment, and there is not enough ROI to justify it.

3. It demands high energy costs.
One big problem with desalination is the enormous amount of energy it consumes. The process includes distillation, which requires boiling countless amounts of water before it can be recollected and used. Also, osmosis (which is a natural process) demands a high amount of energy to reverse. Moreover, desalination critics and opponents argue that the cost of the energy required are simply too high for a plant to be maintained on a long-term basis.

4. Its waste product, the brine, can have a dramatic impact on the environment.
To produce freshwater out of seawater, the salt has to be removed, creating a waste product called brine that is so rich in salt and can contaminate the place where it will be placed. Brine is even strong enough to kill wildlife and vegetation by coming into contact with it. Also, there are usually chlorine-removing chemicals and anti-scaling agents in it.

5. It produces greenhouse gases.
Opponents of desalination argue that desalination plants could produce high amounts of greenhouse gases, which means that the process removing salt from seawater could have a negative impact on the environment, specifically the air that we breathe.

6. It might be used to earn dirty money.
Experts, including the consultant for WWF and author of a 2007 report on desalination, Phil Dickie, argue that process plants are almost never built where they are needed the most, such as in the sub-Saharan Africa, to solve chronic water shortages, or in Asia, where desalination is used to remove fluoride and arsenic from water sources. Also, there is growing evidence that the technology could be used for the removal of common water-borne contaminants, such as residues of endocrine and cosmetic disruptors, as wells as drugs. Instead, some desalination plants are built in places where they generate healthy financial returns, often facilitating inappropriate projects, like golf courses in arid countries. These experts also maintain that this technology is quickly emerging as a distraction to policies for better use of water.


Take note that coming to an agreement of the issues related to desalination can take some time. However, it is really comforting to know that there exists an alternative to freshwater. By weighing down this technology’s pros and cons, we will be able to reach a decision if its costs are certainly worth the obvious gains. We all need freshwater to survive, and desalination could make it happen for us.