UK utility ponders south coast desalination plant

UK utility, Southern Water, is considering the construction of a seawater desalination plant near the south coast city of Southampton.

The company said it has begun environmental assessments for a facility in the range 10-35 Ml/d with a preferred capacity of 20 Ml/d and a project value of about £40 million. Should the proposal go ahead the plant could be on stream by 2028 Southern said.

The plant was one of several options under consideration as part of Southern’s resource management plan including leakage reduction and efficiency improvements. it said “key investments include water re-use schemes in Kent and Sussex and a desalination plant in Hampshire further down the line.”

The company said that it was “looking at various options for the plant”. The Southampton site was preferred following consultation after earlier considerations had settled on the Isle of Wight.

Of the respondents to the consultation 79% said desalination “had a part to play in securing supplies for the future.” On water reuse, 96 per cent said it had a part to play.

Southern Water’s water quality and strategy manager, Meyrick Gough said the change of site was: “led by more up-to-date information on predicted housing and population growth which has resulted in a greater future demand for water in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.” He said the Southampton site promised to be ” more cost-effective to supply larger volumes of water to the whole region.”

In an earlier report the Institution of Chemical Engineers has predicted that changes in technology, along with major population growth and unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change could make desalination more viable in the UK. The institution said at least four major desalination plants and up to 800 smaller ones could to be in operation on the coast of the UK by 2050.