Total world desalination capacity close to 60 million m³/d

The total capacity of desalination plants around the globe is 59.9 million m³/d, according to the 22nd GWI/IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory. Details were released at a briefing held by the International Desalination Association at its World Congress in Dubai on 8 November 2009.

The new installed capacity represents a 6.6 million m³/d increase on last year and is the largest amount of desalination capacity brought online in a single year. The largest plant commissioned was the 880,000 m³/d Shoaiba 3 project in Saudi Arabia, which was one of 700 new plants worldwide.

There are now 14,451 desalination plants online, with a further 244 known to be under contract or in construction – an additional capacity of 9.1 million m³/d.

Since the IDA World Congress in Maspalomas in November 2007, the installed capacity of seawater desalination plants has expanded by an enormous 29.6% to 35.9 million m³/d. Demand is predicted to grow rapidly and is taking place now only in the Middle East, led by the GCC countries, but also in other countries led by Algeria, Australia and Spain. New markets are opening in China, India and the USA.

According to Lisa Henthorne, outgoing president of IDA, while the global economic turndown caused the rate of growth in desalination plants to slow somewhat in 2008-9, population and economic growth, pollution of existing water sources and climate change continue to drive the need for new and reliable sources of water.

“Desalination is one of the answers. It continues to be an increasingly important part of global water solutions for the 21st century and for a better world,” she concluded, echoing the theme of the congress, which was opened on 7 November 2009 under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.