For many of us in the business, when desalination came about in the 90s, and was showing promise in the Middle East, it was a very exciting time. Finally, we could actually see the promise of clean technology at work (in those days it was primarily Electrodialysis Reversal (EDR) offered by Ionics). What has changed?
Many things, including the fact that Desal is no longer viewed as the first choice when dealing with water shortage issues. Desal is not viewed by many environmental and NGO groups as damaging to the environment. The investors that have invested in Desal have not seen much return on those investments, but rather a long lead time for projects to happen, commonly faced with local opposition. A good example of this is the Poseidon project in North San Diego County. Now the project proponents are taking about 3 times the initial proposed budget for the cost of the project to deliver water to communities that are far from the plant.
The word Desal is no longer a sacred word, but considered a bad choice by the environmental community as a solution to the problems of water shortage. It is also considered to be a bad option for the citizens of communities it intends to serve.
Desal is simply not popular in the Western world, and is rather considered a choice for arid regions of the world with large water problems, low energy cost; and no water infrastructure, such as the Middle East.
The notion of building large central plants to solve our water problem is diminishing every day. Point of use production of water and treatment of wastewater is considered less costly and more cost effective for many communities.