News Feature | January 21, 2014

Faced With Water Scarcity, China Looks To Sea Ice Desalination

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


China appears to be looking at ice as a solution to its water woes.

The nation "will soon begin production of large amounts of fresh water through the desalination of sea ice, according to a university research team and a Chinese company," Xinua news agency reported

Is commercialization of this technology on the horizon? One company is betting on it.

"A research team from Beijing Normal University signed a sea ice desalination technology transfer agreement with Beijing Huahaideyuan Technology," the report said. 

The firm has big ambitions for this technology. 

"[It] is expected to be able to produce at least 1 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually by 2023, said Yu Jian, executive president of the company," according to the report. 

China's has been eyeing this avenue since the '90s but the technique had not yet been commercialized. 

"China's sea ice desalination program started in 1996 when Shi Peijun, a professor from Beijing Normal University, realized that low saline ice could ease the water shortage around the Pan-Bohai Bay area in north China, after desalination," the report said.

The technology design is already underway. 

"The research team has the basic principles and technology for sea ice desalination mastered, including an ice breaking platform and an ice-gatherer. Sea ice is much less saline than seawater, and the desalinated water can be used in agriculture, industry and for drinking," according to Water 21, the magazine of the International Water Association.

China is facing a major water squeeze. 

Reuters reported last week that "China's wetlands have shrunk nearly 9 percent since 2003, aggravating water scarcity in a country where food production, energy output and industrial activity are already under pressure from water shortages."

Experts say the country must invest heavily in water in the coming years.

"Water has emerged as a major issue in China. Its scarcity endangers economic growth and social stability, and China has set aside $660 billion for projects to boost supply this decade," the report said. 

For more on this topic, check out Water Online's Desalination Solution Center


Image credit: "Sea ice, ice berg and fog," © 2008 Derek Keats, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license: