ALAMOGORDO, N.M. — Renewable energy development will play a key role in improving and expanding desalination water projects throughout the United States, according to participants in the 56th Annual New Mexico Water Conference. The conference, coordinated by the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at New Mexico State University and the Bureau of Reclamation, brought desalination experts from around the world together, Dec. 13-14 in Alamogordo, N.M., to discuss ways to advance desalination projects.
The desalination process, which removes salt and other materials from brackish water, requires a large amount of energy and can contribute significantly to the carbon footprint. This is why they are seeking to expand technology to use renewable energy in the process. Experts representing Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia presented some of their successful projects and demonstrated why Europe and Asia are currently considered the global leaders in this technology.
Bekele Debele, Ph.D., of the Middle East and North Africa Region Worldbank said desalination is being looked at as an emerging solution to the region’s growing water gap. "Between 1950 and 2000, per-capita renewable water resources declined by more than 75 percent," Debele said. Saudi Arabia, the world’s leader in desalination, is looking to convert all of its seawater desalination plants to renewable energy by 2019, he said.
Following the presentations, breakout groups met to develop research projects along with potential collaboration opportunities. At the final plenary session, the proposed projects were presented and further discussed.
"We want these results to be widely disseminated," said Kevin Price, Advanced Water Treatment research coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "We want to get the word out that these are great ideas so others will want to join in."
Testing of a solar-powered desalination project will begin in January at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo. Louisiana-based Suns River Inc. is conducting the testing.
The conference also included tours of the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility.