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How Does Desalination work?

Only a tiny fraction of the planet’s water is fresh. As much as 97% of Earth’s water is salt water in the ocean. Of the 3% of the planet’s water that is fresh, 2% is trapped in ice caps and glaciers. Only 0.5% of water around the globe is usable as drinking water.

Since humans need water to drink and to sustain agricultural production, people have always looked to the ocean as a potential solution for water shortages. Desalination requires an enormous amount of energy and has long been considered too expensive to be a viable large-scale option. Thanks to new technologies, however, it’s become more realistic, prompting many American communities to invest billions of dollars in full-scale desalination facilities.

The Desalination Process

There are several methods of separating salt from water. However, producers usually rely on reverse osmosis and multistage flash. During reverse osmosis, salt water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane. Under the influence of considerable pressure, water molecules move through the filter, leaving larger sodium molecules behind.

With multistage flash, large amounts of heat convert the salt water into fresh water. The term “flash” stems from instances where the water comes to a boil throughout various stages of the process. As the salt water is subjected to externally supplied heat in each stage, evaporation occurs, and fresh vapor is collected.

A recently developed desalination system is powered by solar energy. Solar panels charge batteries, which in turn power the system and remove salt from water using electrodialysis. At the risk of oversimplifying a complicated chemical reaction, electrodialysis works because dissolved salt has a slight electric charge. By sending an electrical charge through water, the system draws salt out of the water. This type of system includes a UV light, which helps disinfect salt-free water.

What’s Holding Back Production?

If desalination is a reality, why aren’t more plants quenching their thirst around the world? Right now, desalinated water accounts for less than 1% of the fresh water consumed throughout the globe each day. This is mainly due to the incredible amount of energy required to fuel desalinization production.

The process demands considerable resources, including large amounts of money. The future of desalination will be brighter when costs are reduced. Desalinated water typically sells for between $1,000 and $2,500 per acre-foot, which only amounts to enough for two five-person U.S. households per year.

For many cash-strapped communities, this financial burden is too much to bear. The terrible drought conditions in California triggered cities like Santa Barbara to invest millions to billions of dollars in remodeling or building new desalinization facilities. This helped ease the burden of Santa Barbara, but many communities simply don’t have the capital to build new desalination plants.

Treating Your Water

With further innovation, it’s possible the future of desalination may help reduce the scarcity of fresh water on the planet. However, this speculation does nothing to address current drinking water quality concerns like chemical or biological contamination. If you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, invest in a Whole House Water Filter System that reduces 97% of chlorine, filters chemicals and contaminants, prevents bacterial growth, and destroys 99.9% of microorganisms.

At Pelican, we offer two distinct treatment systems for hard water: Pelican Advantage Series Salt Water Softeners and Pelican NaturSoft® Water Softener Alternatives. Water Softener Alternatives reduces scale and mineral buildup without generating wastewater, using electricity, or requiring salt.

Our Salt Water Softeners have the option to use potassium chloride instead of salt, and they save up to 2,000 gallons of water per year in backwashing. We’re committed to providing you a cleaner, healthier way to treat the water in your home while being environmentally responsible.