More and more Israelis are drinking seawater from desalination plants. Why does the Israeli government use citizens like its lab rats?
Desalination is a process that turns seawater into drinking water. On the outset, it sounds fantastic. A sustainable idea that could help us face the current water crisis plaguing the world. In fact, desalination is currently hailed as the best and only solution to the water crisis.
Supporters insist it will reduce the pressure on other regular sources of water. They say the technology will help establish a long-term and dependable water supply. However, potentially, desalination could be more of a problem than a solution. Here are some of the possible risks experts have listed out.
High Cost of Desalination
Desalination is an expensive process. When compared to traditionally sourced water, desalinated water is 3 times more expensive. For starters, it requires several water and electricity subsidies to just break even.
Infrastructure setup and long-term maintenance also incur long-term costs. For example, the California American Water Company increased rates before producing even a single drop of water.
It Could Make Global Warming Worse
Desalination depends on an extreme amount of energy to actually take place. The process involves using intense pressure to pass sea water through the tiny filter like membranes. So, as you might be able to imagine, that requires plenty of energy.
Estimates indicate that desalination plants require about ten times more energy. That is when compared to the energy used to extract water from traditional sources.
Some corporations have planned to establish desalination plants near power plants. This is in order to source vast amounts of energy from them. Such a move will only cause global warming to intensify.
Creating facilities such as this will also cause the population to migrate close by. This will only cause other problems such as increased air pollution.
Finally, there is the risk posed to human health. Yes. It can be dangerous to drink seawater. This is something that many health experts have expressed concern over.
Ocean water possesses contaminants that we don’t find in the filtered or mineral water. These chemicals typically include algal toxins, boron, and endocrine disrupters. What’s even worse is that these contaminants become concentrated after desalination.
The Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences published a condemning study late last year
This study determined various serious health problems resulting from the consumption desalinated water.
They based their observations on studying the effects of desalinated water on rats. The study identified the changes that occur in rat organs such as the kidney, brains and the liver.
Researchers made their observations after consumption of desalinated water during the pre-natal stage. They also aimed to observe behavioral changes. The study examined, three types of water. Bottled water, filtered desalinated water, and tap desalinated water.
The study looked at female rats, and they divided them into groups
They administered water from birth to lactation. Aberrations within the brain, liver, kidney and spinal cord appeared in the group given filtered or tap desalinated water. This was a result of oxidative stress.
This included reduced lipid peroxidation, peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione.
Newborn rats that received desalinated water suffered developmental teratogenic effects. In other words, researchers observed birth defects and other disturbances.
Why is Israel Still Reliant on Desalinated Water?
Like many other countries in the Middle East, Israel used desalination to overcome drought, its biggest enemy. The country set up 5 massive desalination plants in about a decade to fix its water crisis issue.
The project was an achievement worthy of global admiration. Currently, these desalination plants produce about 600 million CCs of water each year. This supplies about 80% of the population’s water.
Israelis have been drinking desalinated water for over a decade now. Eventually, the problems started cropping up
In 2016, there was a damning report presented during the 63rd Annual Conference of the Israeli Heart Society. The report indicated an increase in mortality due to desalinated water. Researchers from Sheba Medical Center and the Bar-Ilan University published this report.
There was a rise in mortality rates among heart patients living in locations supplied with desalinated water. Mortality rates had more than doubled compared to the rates for those living in areas supplied by traditional water sources.
The Israeli Health Ministry estimates that 250 deaths have resulted from magnesium deficiency
This is something that is also related to desalinated water. However, despite the revelation of facts to the public, there seems to be no reaction from any group.
Israel needs to take this matter seriously. Millions of their citizens have been consuming desalinated water for years.
There are 4 key measures that the government needs to put in place to solve the problem
The first involves limiting the supply of desalinated water to people. Ideally, a reduction of 75% could be ideal, which brings the limit to 25%.
Temporary transfers from other sources could make up for the pending water supply. Nevertheless, implementing this measure on a countrywide basis will take time.
However, the government can prioritize locations. They could begin in the south, and those places located close to desalination plants. These are the locations that have been consuming greater quantities of desalinated water.
The next measure is to create and introduce water conservation programs to communities.
The third measure would be to create a program that aims to treat desalinated water. This would include replenishing the desalinated water with minerals like magnesium. Then, also begin to cure it of other contaminants.
The final measure would be to redirect investments towards improving natural water sources. Investments especially aimed at the sand aquifer.