Spain built Europe's first desalination plant nearly 40 years ago and is the largest user of desalination technology in the Western world. Spanish companies lead the market, operating in regions including India, the Middle East, and North America. Spanish innovation contributes to advancing desalination to bring sustainable clean water to millions. This is the second in an eight-part series highlighting new technologies in Spain and is produced by Technology Review, Inc.' s custom-publishing division in partnership with the Trade Commission of Spain.
Just steps away from the Mediterranean sea along Spain's southern coast, machinery hums inside Carboneras, one of Europe's largest seawater desalination plants. Throughout the building, water flows through brightly colored pipes and tanks, along the way passing through layers of chemical and physical filtration before the seawater reaches the heart of the plant, the reverse-osmosis membranes that turn saltwater into fresh. This plant marks Spain's decades of experience and research in the field of desalination. It represents the efforts of some of the top Spanish firms in the field, both in Spain and around the world.
For the past 40 years, companies in Spain have built and operated desalination plants, first in the water-poor Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, then moving to fulfill water needs on the Spanish mainland and around the world. These companies, and the companies that provide a wide variety of parts for desalination plants, have grown, constantly honing and improving both cost and efficiency. Research continues in the Canary Islands for ways to couple desalination with renewable energy to provide sustainable, ecological solutions for communities in developing countries. Today, Spanish companies make up the largest percentage of competitors on the international market for the design, engineering, construction, and operation of new desalination plants around the world.