The Australian experience of desalination

As climate science points to drier years to come, many across the planet are adjusting their traditional expectations of water supplies. In October 2016, representatives of the water industry from all over the world will meet in Brisbane, Australia for the International Water Association’s World Water Congress & Exhibition 2016. A workshop associated with the IWC arranged in collaboration with the International Desalination Association and Australian Water Association will address Australia’s response to challenges from demand growth, climate change and increasing weather volatility: Reverse Osmosis Membrane Desalination.


Australia faced the worst drought in living memory (which came to be known as the Millennium Drought) between 1997 and 2010. We applied a number of techniques including conservation, water trading, water recycling, stormwater collection and on-site greywater reuse. The Perth and Southern Seawater Desalination Plants have supplied clean, secure drinking water to residents since the first plant was completed in 2006. They currently provide around 145 ML (180,000 acre-feet or 38.3 billion gallons) per year which supplies approximately half of the drinking water for Perth’s 2 million people.

One of the important lessons we learned in Australia is the importance of developing a portfolio of water sources. So it is not a matter of having to choose between seawater desalination and water recycling, water conservation and stormwater reuse or economic instruments – it is wise to consider all of them.

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