Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

For Immediate Release


Rich McIntyre or Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch: (202) 683-2500

Press Release

Ocean Desalination No Solution to Water Shortages

New Food & Water Watch Report Reveals Technology as Costly, Bad for People and Environment

Food & Water Watch today released a new report that reveals that
ocean desalination, an emerging technology often promoted by private
corporations as a solution to drought and water shortages, creates a
myriad of environmental and social problems. Desalination: An Ocean of Problems
finds that desalination-the process of removing salt from seawater to
make it drinkable, carries a high price tag, releases unregulated
chemicals into drinking water supplies, uses large amounts of energy,
pollutes waterways, and threatens fisheries and marine environments,
among other drawbacks.

"Private companies are marketing desalination as a long-term
solution to water shortages. In reality, they are taking advantage of
communities where impending water crises are leading water managers to
believe they must adopt extreme measures," said Wenonah Hauter,
executive director, Food & Water Watch. "Desalination is a risky
water supply option that actually creates more problems than it solves."

Desalination: An Ocean of Problems reports the following findings:

Desalination is expensive. Although the price tag
varies by region and is often obscured by corporate underestimates and
government subsidies, it is more often two to four times as costly as
traditional options.

Desalination is bad for the environment and human health.
The by-products of desalination include coagulalants, bisulfates, and
chlorines. When concentrated waste is dumped into the ocean as it is
with desalination, it is harmful to marine life and environments.
Furthermore, power plants' intake mechanisms, which are often teamed
with desalination plants, kill at least 3.4 billion fish and other
marine organisms annually. In addition to upsetting marine
environments, desalination causes fishermen to lose at least 165
million pounds of fish a year today and 717.1 million pounds of
potential future catch.

Desalted water also puts drinking water supplies at risk because
seawater contains chemicals such as boron, that freshwater does not.
Boron, only 50 to 70 percent of which is removed through the
desalination process, has been found to cause reproductive problems and
developmental problems in animals and irritation of the human digestive
track. Current drinking water regulations do not protect the public
from boron.

Desalination contributes to global warming and requires large amounts of energy.
Removing salt from large volumes of water takes nine times as much
energy as surface water treatment and 14 times as much energy as
groundwater protection. Emissions created by desalination plants
contribute to climate change, a leading factor of the droughts and
water shortages the process is intended to mitigate.

Desalination turns water into a commodity. Private
corporations are investing in desalination because it is a leading
growth area in the global water market. As water becomes a scarcer
commodity, global corporations are setting themselves up to sell water
for a profit. Furthermore, private control of water makes in much
harder to ensure public safety.

"Policy makers can better provide the public with safe, affordable
water by implementing conservation measures to protect water supplies.
It is up to the government to ensure the integrity of this vital
natural resource. It should not be left to private corporations more
concerned with revenue than service delivery," said Hauter.

Desalination: An Ocean of Problems is available now at:


Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

Greenhouse Gases Trapped Nearly 50% More Heat Last Year Than in 1990: NOAA

"Getting hot in here," said one climate campaigner. "Gotta get congressmen and senators to do more midday outdoor events in their dark suits."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Perverse' Supreme Court Ruling 'Effectively Ensures That Innocent People Will Remain Imprisoned'

"This is radical. This is horrifying. This is extremely scary," said one public defender.

Jessica Corbett ·

Arizona, West Virginia Residents Risk Arrest to Demand End to Filibuster

"Our democracy is on life support," said campaigners. "There's no time to ask nicely."

Julia Conley ·

Campaign Launches 'Summer of Action' to Protect Medicare From Stealth Privatization

Medicare "is under threat today from the constant efforts of private insurance companies and for-profit investors who want to privatize it and turn it into yet another shameful opportunity to make money," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Kenny Stancil ·

Florida Student's Graduation Speech About Curly Hair Highlights Cruelty of 'Don't Say Gay' Law

Having to use a euphemism to discuss his identity "was a really dehumanizing decision," said Zander Moricz. "I just had to be clever about it—but I shouldn't have had to be."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo