SINGAPORE (Feb 18): Desalination — the process of turning vast amounts of water from oceans and rivers into fresh water — has been held up as the hope of water-starved nations such as Singapore.

Desalination is Singapore’s prized fourth “national tap”. According to PUB, the city state is set to have five desalination plants by 2020, and desalinated water would meet up to 30% of the population’s daily water needs by 2060.

But last month, a United Nations-backed study revealed that desalination actually poses a danger to the environment as a result of the higher-than-expected amounts of toxic by-product — containing high concentrations of salt and chemicals — released into the sea. According to estimates, nearly 52 billion cu m of this toxic brine is discharged every year.

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