A study by a group of West Australian scientists has investigated the possibility of using geothermal energy to desalinate groundwater.
The group from the Western Australia Geothermal Centre of Excellence (CSIRO) previously researched geothermal energy’s potential to convert groundwater into drinkable water. Now the group is taking that prior research one step further in an effort to find a solution to water shortages that plague the country.
In Perth, Challenge Stadium has utilized geothermal technology for 8 years as a way to heat swimmings pools; these geothermal wells draw from a supply 700 to 1,000 meters below ground. As an energy source, geothermal is not new here.
But in researching how to expand geothermal contribution, the scientists found a way that they believe both communities and mining companies could benefit: technology to desalinate groundwater. Drinkable water is currently piped in at huge expense.
“It will help to reduce competition for scarce fresh water resources in those parts of Australia where geothermal energy can be economically used to improve water quality,” said Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, director of the WA Geothermal Centre at the University of Western Australia.
Regenauer-Lieg is also the leader of the investigation in the desalination project. He hopes to make Western Australia a “hub in clean energy tech and water production.”
The process uses geothermal energy–that is, the heat from the earth’s core–evaporates groundwater, separating the pure water from salt and pollutants. Clean steam is formed, that, when cooled, is condensed into drinking water. The technology is best suited to regions in Western Australia with plentiful groundwater and geothermal energy potential, away from urban areas.
Reports say that even though the research is preliminary, it’s also very promising, especially in a country that struggles to supply clean water in line with demand.