Solar Desalination

Developing a sustainable concentrated solar power desalination plant in an isolated coastal community to alleviate water scarcity.

CHALLENGES

Saline contamination of aquifers due to increased demand for freshwater is a growing concern for coastal communities. Contamination not only creates widespread interruptions in potable water supplies but also threatens agricultural irrigation, thereby contributing to food insecurity. Climate change projections show decreased precipitation and increased temperatures in arid regions which will only exacerbate water scarcity.

Intensive irrigation, over exploitation of wells, and a resultant drop in the water table have led to saline intrusion of the aquifer on the coast of Hermosillo (a county in Sonora, Mexico). Due to the saltwater contamination, a number of isolated communities in the area now depend on water transported from nearby urban centers. Yet such deliveries are infrequent, unreliable, and expensive.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

As an alternative, many coastal regions are turning to water desalination. However, the current process includes high infrastructure costs and requires considerable amounts of energy, rendering it uneconomical and environmentally unsustainable. SWB is working in collaboration with the University of Sonora and local authorities to design and test a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) desalination plant prototype. Joint research is also focused on utilization of the CSP brine byproduct to produce salt that can be sold to the cattle industry.

The prototype is also being explored to tackle similar issues in the north areas of Costa Rica.

OUR IMPACT

SWB aims to create a scalable, reliable, and affordable model that can be replicated to benefit other coastal regions facing similar challenges. The CSP desalination plant will alleviate water scarcity while providing the communities with water autonomy. New economic prospects for residents are also anticipated as better water access improves their ability to clean fish to sell at city markets, and CSP byproduct creates the opportunity to market salt.

Concentrated Solar

Mirrors concentrate solar power to thermally produce distilled water. The technique could provide an environmentally sustainable alternative to current desalinization methods.

Industrial Symbiosis

Salt derived from brine, a byproduct of desalination, has the potential to be sold to the cattle industry. This would simultaneously reduce waste and diversify the community’s income.