The advantages of desalination are that it has a high scalability and its main water source, sea water, is an unlimited, non-regulated source. Water produced does not need to be stored and no evaporation of this water occurs. Most importantly, desalination offers security of supply because it is not affected by climate change and trans-boundary water conflicts.
Desalination Market and Investment Potential
Currently there are over 15,000 desalination plants online in over 100 countries worldwide with over 65 million m3 per day of desalination capacity is currently in operation and over 71 million m3 per day contracted
Global capital expenditure on new and replacement desalination plants is expected to grow from USD 5.8 billion in 2009 and USD 6 billion in 2010 to USD 18 billion in 2015 and USD 18.3 in 2010. During this period O & M will grow from USD 7.1 billion to USD 16.3 billion. Most of the investment will be from the private sector, especially small and medium operators such as developers of energy recovery devices and specialised membranes.
The sector is expected to experience annual growth of 10 to12% until 2030 with short-term growth driven by Libya, Chile, China, India and the United States, and the GCC countries. The US market will switch from small brackish water desalination plant to large scale municipal desalination projects, mainly using seawater as the feed. China and India are predicted to have an additional 650,000 m3 per day desalination capacity by 2015, and these markets may experience the most rapid grow. The biggest desalination markets will continue to be countries in the Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait) and the USA.
As the price of desalinating water is falling all the time and may be equal to freshwater extraction in 2020 in some parts of the world, making it is becoming more appealing to government decision makers for water supply. It is estimated that by 2025 3.5 billion people will be experiencing water stress. Water stress may be exacerbated by the effects of climate change.