For many years, the term "desalination" has stood for one process only: turning seawater into freshwater. But as technology advances and new equipment is developed, methods have been vastly improved and the scope of desalination has been expanded to reuse of agricultural water and industrial effluent.
One of the relatively new techniques to produce drinking water from seawater is forward osmosis, used by a growing number of start-ups and desalination plants. Dirty, murky water is fed through an appliance where it undergoes a process that pulls water through membranes, leaving impurities and salt behind. One of the main benefits of the process is that it only uses about a quarter of the energy that traditional desalination requires, according to Yale Environment 360 -- a publication of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
As global water systems are predicted to experience more stress in future, due to increasing water demand and lengthy periods of drought, efficient management of water resources will become critical. There are three main aspects of water systems that governments and authorities will have to focus on: desalination, wastewater recycling and rainwater storage, said David Sedlak, a University of California-Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering. But the focus of desalination should be shifted from seawater, which currently accounts for 60 percent of all desalinated water globally, to less-salty brackish water and wastewater recycling, because it will be less costly and more sustainable, he claimed.