Some of the big investments in desalination outside of desert countries aren't necessarily paying off.
Australia, for example, made significant investments in desalination plants during a decade long drought, sparking criticism for the technology's high costs and environmental effects. Now, they seem redundant since heavy rains have been falling in the country.
Likewise a desalination plant built during a drought in the 1980s in Santa Barbara, California, ran for only a few weeks before it was shut down once rain returned. The current drought has led local officials to consider reopening the plant, which could cost up to $40 million—that is on top of the $35 million spent on building it.
Other methods, such as water conservation, water recycling and storm-water capture, are more cost effective in regions where water is likely to fall again, Lund said.
"Droughts are a very good test, that remind us that we need to make these changes," Lund said. "If you look at the history of water management in California, it is a history of droughts and floods and lawsuits."