Since seawater desalination is the only renewable source of fresh water available on the planet, many countries are turning to it as a key to their water resource management strategies. After all, less than 1 percent of the world’s water is fresh groundwater, but 97 percent of Earth’s water is salt water, according to IDA.
“Water becomes a driver for a lot of wars in a lot of parts of the world,” Burke said.
Seamonds said many reports predict that the next major wars will be fought over water, and the United Nations expects that 1.8 billion people will face absolute water scarcity by 2025. But desalination is only a partial solution.
“Water reuse, conservation, fixing leaky pipes — you take all of these things and then you say, we still don’t have enough water,” Burke said. “Then you look at desalination.”
One hundred and fifty countries use desalination in some capacity, with a city like Dubai producing around 98 percent of its drinking water that way.
“As Pat always says, it’s like the well that won’t run dry because the sea is a very sustainable resource,” Seamonds said.
Though most people believe desalination is more expensive than other systems, Burke and Seamonds say it is not; new technologies have lowered energy requirements and achieved greater operational efficiency, making desalination less costly.
While people driving past the Topsfield offices may not notice, IDA often hosts delegations from other countries, as well as the media, including CNN and Fox News. Proximity to Boston makes IDA’s location convenient, Seamonds said. But being in Topsfield is also convenient for Burke, who lives 10 minutes away and can go home at lunch to let her dog out.
As secretary general of IDA, Seamonds said Burke is well-respected in the desalination industry. But Burke’s particular passion is education.