Ocean-water desalination creates a safe and reliable water supply that is local and not dependent on varying weather conditions or water rights. Ocean-water desalination is the process of removing salt, other minerals and impurities from ocean water so that it can be used to supplement the existing water supply.
Desalination is a time-tested process that originated in the Middle East, dating back to Julius Caesar around 49 BCE. There are more than 21,000 desalination plants in the world today. Saudi Arabia produces more than 70% of its drinking water from desalinated ocean-water and Australia is using desalinated ocean-water to supplement the water supply for some of its cities.
The United States' first known experience with desalination was in 1791 when Thomas Jefferson had a simple distillation process printed on the backs of all papers distributed on ships, giving sailors an option to produce drinking water in case of emergency.
The first desalination plant built in the U.S. occurred in the 1960’s at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. When water supplies to the naval base were cut off in retaliation for the Cuban Missile Crisis, the base became self-sufficient, desalinating 3.4 million gallons of water every day.
Today, cruise ships and submarines desalinate ocean-water to meet the needs of their passengers, but less than 1% of the U.S. population on land currently receives desalinated water to drink. Ocean-water desalination has been in practice in the U.S. for hundreds of years, though, and as the technology continues to improve, it is becoming easier and more affordable to produce desalinated ocean-water for everyday human uses.