Sustainable Energy

Turning the sea into drinking water

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Making sea water drinkable

Water is crucial to life on earth. Yet for many people across the planet, getting access to clean, safe drinking water is a challenge.

The United Nations says that by 2025 1.8 billion people will be living in areas "with absolute water scarcity."

In Israel, IDE Technologies, a company specializing in water treatment, is looking to the sea to ensure a secure supply of fresh water. The company says that worldwide, it supplies 3 million cubic meters of "high quality water" every single day.

Their Sorek Project is, they say, the planet's largest and most advanced seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant.

Sea water from over one kilometer out at sea is pumped to the plant, in Sorek, Israel. After impurities are taken out, the sea water is then forced through membranes under high pressure to force water through but leave the salt behind.

"The Sorek desalination plant is producing 624,000 cubic meters (of water) per day, which is about 20 percent of the domestic usage in Israel," Miriam Faigon, senior director of water solutions and products at IDE Technologies, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

According to the International Desalination Association (IDA), as of June 30th last year, there were more than 18,000 desalination plants globally, generating 22.9 billion gallons of water daily. IDA states that over 300 million people worldwide depend on desalinated water for "some or all their daily needs".

A key goal of IDE Technologies is to increase the energy efficiency of the whole desalination process.

"Twenty five years ago the power consumption was about seven or eight kilowatt hours per cubic meter," Boris Liberman, VP and CTO for membrane technologies, said.

"In this plant, we have 3.5 (kilowatt hours). We are… working to diminish the power consumption, and most probably, in a relatively short time, it can reach level about 2.5 kilowatt hours per cubic meter," he added.

Faigon went on to say that technologies such as better motors, pumps and overall plant design, would help to create both value and sustainable water.