Environment minister Ian Pearson this week backed desalination as a necessary technology to serve water stressed areas in south east England.
'I do believe that desalination plants may be necessary as part of plans for some water companies in the medium term to ensure security of supplies in the medium term,' he said.Pearson was speaking at a Water UK sponsored Labour Party conference fringe event this week.His backing was seen as a positive indication by Thames Water that it will get the go ahead to build its £200M, 140Mld plant in Beckton, east London. The company is awaiting the decision of a public inquiry as to whether the plant should go ahead after it was vetoed by London mayor Ken Livingstone (NCE 29 June).'It is encouraging,' said Thames Water environment director Richard Aylard. 'The planning inspector is due to make his report at the end of this month and this will then go to ministers for approval. We expect a decision towards the end of the year,' he told NCE.Thames is one of three water companies believed to be considering the technology. South East Water has just completed an 18 month trial of a pilot plant at Newhaven Port in East Sussex. This would only be used during extended dry periods and would not be part of day to day supplies.Like Thames, South East would use reverse osmosis, which is less energy intensive than heat treatment. Livingstone maintains that desalination is too energy intensive.'I agree that it is hugely energy intensive and not good for the environment. We need to come up with more long term solutions and we can do a lot more in terms of improving efficiency,' said Pearson.