Desalination Projects

17 Feb

As a result of rapid industrial and economic growth within China the demand for water resources has increased water scarcity issues across the country, especially within extensively urbanised areas along the coast. Subsequently there has been development of the desalination industry, specifically in cities surrounding Beijing which hope to supply some of the unmet demand.

This still comparatively expensive water source is being developed from Israeli technology, in attempt to quench China’s extensive water demands. Current companies are planning for future prospects of the industry, as other sources fail to meet demand especially within the North where regions are drier and highly industrial. The costly and extensive hard engineering projects which divert fresh water from China’s vast rivers (e.g. the South-North Water Transfer Project, Yangzi River Basin) have been revolutionary projects within infrastructure development. However excessively high cost, frequent delays and implications of environmental degradation from the water-diversion are forcing government to explore other avenues of both energy and water supply.



Map shows location of Water-Diversion Project and Tianjin Desalination Plant to the North (Economist, 2013).

There are 57 desalination projects within China, the largest is the Tianjin Seawater Desalination Plant located in the port city of Tianjin just outside Beijing. The major plant became China’s first large-scale supplier of desalinated water in 2010 and will soon have a production capacity of 200,000m3/day (Economist, 2013).  Investment from the government run conglomerate SDIC, a large State owned enterprise (SOE) contains the industry within government control. Privatisation of the desalination sector is still developing; currently 70-80% of the projects are financed by SOEs (WaterWorld, 2013).

The government promotes these desalination plants as a ‘sustainable’ resolution to China’s water demands. Future projections suggest with the correct development of Chinese desalination technology, water supplied form these plants will be cheaper than water-diversion from the South (Economist). However the desalination process remains very costly to set up and always requires large amounts of energy input; therefore alleviating the issue of water scarcity could only exacerbate China’s growing energy demands.


Economist ‘Desalination: Costly Drops’:




One Response to “Desalination Projects”

  1. jtkai February 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    This article explains China’s need for more water and it’s innovative way of dealing with this occurring issues really well.
    This comment solely aims to raise a few points of information.
    Only a few days ago China’s government posted information about supporting the Chinese industry in this field to an ever greater extend so that by the year of 2015 China will desalinate 2.2-2.6 million tons of seawater per day.

    Whilst this seems like a good idea, these predictions have to be met with caution. The Chinese goals in desalination for the past five years have not been met, yet the government sets itself and its researchers even more ambitious goals.

    Furthermore, whilst this additional governmental aid, is a reason for celebration in loval companies, it is a hinderance for internationals. Beijing Enterprises Water can be assured that they are a beneficiary of the new policy against its international competition.

    Foreign companies, such as companies from Norway find it hard to compete with the localised and low cost environment. This also has implications for the global market.

    This policy of protection has been used before with the development of wind energy in China. Cinese firms are encouraged to ‘to move into more sophisticated equipment markets’.

    This form of politics is therefore strongly visible as a politics trying to hinder foreign intervention or competition and definitely opposes the ideals of free trade.

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