June 21, 2007

Desalination Blues

The world doesn't have enough freshwater. Okay, I don't know if that sentence is literally true or not, but considering the fact that 1.1 billion people don't have clean drinking water, the frequency of conflicts over water supplies (Sri Lanka's a good example; so is, to a small extent, Israel and Palestine), and the fact that global warming could very well increase the frequency of droughts in the coming years, then it may as well be true.

Desalination was always the great hope for water scarcity. Scoop the water out of the ocean and turn it into drinking water. That's how Saudi Arabia gets about 60 percent of its water. But now a new report by the World Wildlife Fund suggests that desalination could end up making the problem worse—especially since it's an energy intensive process, which will increase greenhouse emissions and accelerate the global drying trend. WWF says it's better to conserve. I agree, though if the plants were powered by, say, solar energy, this objection would largely vanish, no? (Then again, the destruction of coastal habitats is a valid concern.)

P.S. The Center for Media and Democracy says that the World Wildlife Fund is actually just a hapless repository for corporate greenwashing efforts. So, when a company wants some good PR, they'll shell out a few bucks to the WWF and sponsor some meaningless eco-project. Maybe, although I'm not sure I really understand why WWF's latest initiative with Coca-Cola is getting so much grief. Sure, Coca-Cola's evil, but the actual conservation project itself seems worthwhile...
-- Brad Plumer 12:34 AM || ||