While seeking relief from the humid heat we had yesterday I took a plunge in our
pool. Backyard pools have been in the news lately with a spate of reports of
young kids tragically drowning in them - with inadequate or missing pool fences
(which are compulsory in New South Wales).
This is from our local freebie Manly Daily:
Now, I do have a nagging feeling about our pool for other reasons as well. I feel
guilty for wasting our precious water in New South Wales and Sydney: the dams
providing our drinking water are still well below the levels of past averages.
Furthermore, the fact that the New South Wales State Government decided a few
years ago that the expensive and energy consuming de-salination plant is needed
to supplement unreliable water resources is the way to go makes it worse.
Putting aside the political reasons for the decision, there are some worthwhile
issues to consider, such as this list of Pros and Cons from an organisation called
Austconserv (http://austconserv.com -
What are the Pros & Cons of Desalination?
So what are the pros and cons of the desalination process as being an alternative means to acquire fresh water? Take a look at the following list:
- A desalination plant can supply millions of litres of water in a particular city, regardless of rainfall.
- The ocean is considered to be an untapped fresh water resource, so why should it not be used?
- Desalination guarantees that there will always be a supply of fresh water, even during the drought season.
- The desalination process itself requires a significant amount of energy to operate.
- The desalination process has an end result of concentrated brine which, when pumped back out to sea, has a potential effect of damaging the sanctity of marine life.
- Environmentalists believe that desalination will result to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
- From an overall perspective, building a de-salination plant is not a cost-effective solution at all when compared to other methods like water recycling and harvesting of storm water.
The Verdict: Does Australia Really Need More Desalination Plants?
Currently, there are desalination plants which are being built in Sydney. The locations of desalination plants which are to be built in the near future include Wonthaggi, Victoria and another one in Perth.
As mentioned earlier, the Sydney desalination plant will be powered by renewable energy resources so that the effects of greenhouse gases can be eliminated. Last December of 2007, the government of South Australia also announced that another desalination plant will be built at Port Stanvac in Adelaide.
With such constructions going on, does this mean that there really is a need for the government to be building more desalination plants? Sure, this process of purifying seawater and ridding it of salt for human consumption is a seemingly novel aspect, but there are still environmental issues which need to be addressed.
The desalination process is still an imperfect science, and further studies need to be made to ensure that it will not cause further harm to the environment.
However, given the fact that the shortage of water supply is something that Australians face on a seasonal basis - especially during drought - this alternative solution of adding more desalination plants is something that is worth pursuing.
Note though, that our situation could be worse: we could be using electricity to warm the pool the year round. We don't, we use solar heating to extend our swimming season by a couple of months, during the summer we don't need to heat it at all (the overall that makes about 8 months of pleasant swimming).