Demand for fresh water is increasing around the world especially in areas with rapidly growing populations or affected by drought, according to international consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

It is set to publish a study on the Spanish water market, which has embraced desalination technology – the process of removing salt and minerals from sea water for drinking water or irrigation.

Nuno Oscar Branco, an industry analyst, who has been researching the desalination market, said: “Spain is the largest desalination market in the Mediterranean region, but countries such as Algeria, Morocco or Libya, to name just a few, have joined the desalination bandwagon and are investing heavily on this source of fresh drinking water.”

The Mediterranean has endured increasingly severe water shortages in recent years, the consultants point out.

And, Spain has led the way with desalinisation.

It built its first plant in 1965, they point out, becoming one of the first countries in the region to consider the technology a viable solution to solving water shortages in large urban areas.

Spain is planning to invest an estimated $5.5 billion in desalinization treatment plants between 2004 and 2015 in an effort to increase the production capacity of fresh water, Mr Branco says.

This long history has given Spain an expertise in the industry that it is enabling it to win desalinisation contracts elsewhere.

Spanish-led consortium, Southern Seawater Alliance, last month signed a 25-year contract to build and operate the new Southern Seawater Desalinisation plant in Western Australia.

“Spain is close to reaching the peak of its desalination programme and is on the forefront of the desalination markets, leading the way in employing new technologies and plant design,” Mr Branco said.

“Spanish companies have developed strong know-how in the construction and operation of large desalinization plants and are winning important contracts in Algeria, India and Australia.”

David Gibbs

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