The desalination process is when people remove the salt and minerals from saline water.  Desalination serves a very important role in human history and continues to play a role in Florida today. Read on to learn the basics of the desalination process.

History of Desalination

Desalination is not a new or modern concept.  In fact, historians trace desalination back to the Ancient Greeks where they boiled saltwater, captured the water vapors from the boiling process, and then waited for it to condense.  Given the time and energy it took to process the saltwater into freshwater, desalination was not able to be applied to a large scale process and therefore was not widely used.

In the Age of Exploration, sailors on long voyages required an improvement in the desalination process. It was not, however, until the Industrial Revolution, where machines that ran on steam were in wide use, did the desalination start to be used in a larger scale.

The State of Texas constructed the first industrial desalination plant in 1961.  Today, there are over 21,000 desalination plants around the world as the technology has improved and became more efficient.

Desalination Process in Florida

Florida has over 130 desalination plants, which makes Florida the leader for desalination in the United States.  Florida invested in desalination due to its rapid population growth in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  This population growth stressed the Floridian Aquifer System.  Add to the fact that Florida had severe droughts in the 2000s, Florida needed to find another source of freshwater that could supplement and even replenish the Floridian Aquifer System.

Pros of Desalination

  • Provides a source of water, not dependent on rain and not impacted by droughts
  • Acts as a supplement to other fresh water sources which allows those water sources to naturally recharge.
  • Allows for further population or agricultural growth as ensuring there is abundant freshwater sources in no longer an issue.
  • There are regulatory bodies for desalination plants, thus ensuring high water quality.
  • Prevents the need to create additional reservoirs or dams which might negatively impact the environment or permanently change the landscape.
  • Allows for water diversification, so governments, businesses, and people are not fighting over the same water source.

Cons of Desalination

  • The process is cost prohibitive. This is due to the amount of energy it takes to convert salt water into freshwater
  • The plants themselves can be harmful to marine life
  • The construction of desalination plants can be an expensive endeavor.
  • The byproduct of brine can be an environmental concern