Desal offers best water and food security insurance, says expert

March 22, 2012

Desalination offers drying Australia the best water and food security insurance for the drier, more heavily populated decades ahead, according to one of the country's leading water experts.

Speaking on World Water Day, the CEO of Australia’s National Centre of Excellence in Desalination at Murdoch University Rockingham, Neil Palmer, said the arid country’s growing needs for fresh drinkable water in a long term drying climate would be best met by increased investment in desal technology.

“Perth is already reliant on desal plants to meet half of its water needs, and CSIRO research indicates that our drying climate will only increase risks to fresh water availability," he said.

“Despite the wet summer on the east coast, repeated and extreme cycles of drought are forecast to strain water supplies and in coming years the country’s six major desal plants simply won’t have enough capacity to meet anticipated demand.”

Mr Palmer said governments have to plan well in advance to invest in and implement city water security measures, and the food required to feed city residents also uses immense volumes of quality rural and regional water forecast to become scarce in the years ahead.

“Desalination is the insurance Australia has to have if we are to secure our urban populations’ water and food supplies against cyclical drought and climate change over the next half century.

“Hopefully we don’t need catastrophic droughts and water shortages here in the First World for Australians to realise that protecting access to our most basic need of access to clean, fresh water is vital.”

This year Perth is dependant upon seawater desalination and Mr Palmer said that with city groundwater resources at crisis point, WA would soon need to invest in more seawater desalination plants or major recycling schemes to quench its residents’ thirst.

The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia funds research into improvements and innovations in desal technology on behalf of the Australian Government via its Water for the Future initiative. The new state-of-the-art NCEDA Rockingham Desalination Research Facility and Desal Discovery Centre are located at Murdoch’s Rockingham Campus.

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