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What is desalination?

Desalination is commonly defined as the “process of removing dissolved solids, such as salts and minerals, from water” (27).  Since the 1960s, the desalination sector has grown substantially to produce, for instance, fresh water for anthropogenic use. There are various feedwater resources for desalination, ranging from ocean water, wastewater, brackish water, river waters to saline aquifers.  However, seawater represents the majority of feedwater resources in desalination facilities. Furthermore, the main desalination technologies used are traditional thermal technologies and membrane technologies, particularly reverse osmosis, which accounts for 46% of the market share (1). In Spain, 88% of the capacity is taken up by reverse osmosis, including the El Prat desalination plant,  which is the largest in Europe to use this technology.

In addition, the municipal sector is the primary user for desalinated water followed by the industrial and power sector. Nevertheless, desalination is commonly criticized for the brine, which it produces, and for its capital and energy-intensive proposition (27).

El Prat - osmosis.jpg

Photo of the reverse osmosis facilities at the El Prat desalination plant.

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