Seawater Desalination and the Political Ecology of Water
Edited by Joe Williams and Erik Swyngedouw
Chapter 4: On the implications of seawater desalination: some insights from the Israeli case
With declining costs and rising water stress desalination may seem a panacea. However, desalination is imbued with contradictions. This chapter identifies these contradictions on the basis of the Israeli experience. To this end, the direct and indirect implications of desalination are outlined as they have been played out in Israel. The first contradiction is between supply augmentation and water conservation – desalination reduces perceptions of scarcity and hence readiness to conserve water. A second contradiction is environmental – desalination increases greenhouse gas emissions and affects marine life, while allowing more freshwater to be retained in nature and reducing vulnerability to climate change. A third contradiction regards control. While desalination has the potential to change zero-sum into positive-sum games, it alters power relations thereby generating opposition from parties that lose advantageous positions. Finally, while desalination is intended to alleviate shortages to households, it may preclude access by the weakest strata due to its price effects, thereby aggravating inequities.
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