South Korea unveils seawater desalination R&D project

Water professionals must radically change their attitudes to water sourcing if global water scarcity is to be tackled, according to the International Water Association (IWA).

Speaking at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea IWA executive director Paul Reiter said that water professionals across the world needed to “hasten” their uptake of new water management options in line with rapid population growth, which could see urban populations grow by at least 1m every week in the next 40 years – to reach about 2.3bn by 2050.

Mr Reiter added that future technologies and innovative approaches to providing sustainable water would also have a major role to play, with water reuse also needing to increase.

He said: “Water professionals need to change the way they think about sourcing water, and using it over and over again”, adding that suppliers need to “break the orthodox approach to break the orthodox approach to delivering water to urban communities”.

This warning comes as South Korea today (April 30) releases details of a pioneering research and development project on seawater desalination.

As part of the initiative, in 2013 the Korean city Busan is set to operate the world’s largest seawater reverse osmosis plant to measure unit train and membrane size as it aims to raise global standards for water treatment technologies, including seawater engineering and desalination.

It is anticipated that following testing of the new desalination plant, which is capable of generating 45m litres of water daily, that the technology can then be exported to global markets. It is also hoped the system will improve water quality in Busan which has suffered from frequent water pollution in the River Nakdong.

Center for Seawater Desalination Plant executive director professor In S Kim, said: “The purpose of the Busan project is to do the research and development, operate the technology on a practical level, then export the core technologies.

“The greatest benefit will be the outcomes of the research and development that can be used in regions of the world where there are long-term water shortages, especially with the uncertainties presented by climate change.”

This reiterates the findings of an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study published last month which said that Governments worldwide “must act now to prevent irreversible environmental damage and protect diminishing natural resources – or face rising pollution levels, water scarcity .

Carys Matthews

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