Desalination plants harm environment

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According to a UN backed study, desalination plants around the world are pumping out far more salt laden brine than previously believed, according to a new study.

Background:

  • About 16,000 desalination plants worldwide produce bigger-than-expected flows of highly salty waste water and toxic chemicals that are damaging the environment.
  • Desalination plants pump out 142 million cubic metres of salty brine every day, 50% more than previous estimates, to produce 95 million cubic metres of fresh water.
  • About 55% of the brine is produced in desalination plants processing seawater in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Key Facts:

  • Desalination means any process that removes the excess salt and other minerals from water in order to obtain fresh water suitable for animal consumption or irrigation. In some cases from the brackish (slightly salty) waters of inland seas, highly mineralised ground waters (e.g: geothermal brines), and municipal waste-waters.
  • Desalination plants around the world are pumping out far more salt laden brine than previously believed. The brine raises the level of salinity and poses a major risk to ocean life and marine ecosystems.
  • Brine, water comprising about 5% salt, often includes toxins such as chlorine and copper used in desalination. By contrast, global sea water is about 3.5% salt.
  • Waste chemicals “accumulate in the environment and can have toxic effects in fish”

Way Forward

  • Alternate sources of water should be explored such as aquifers below sea bed.
  •  Irrigation of salt tolerant species of plant-for example-Spirulina and Treatment of brine before discharge.

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