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Global Desalination: Large-Scale Market Outlook & Forecast Scenarios, 2014-2018

25 February 2014

The combination of acute water stress, private sector demand, and government-driven pressures underpins desalination technology’s position as a solid water supply option. Catalysts to unlocking growth will be continued Middle East demand, industrial expansion, private water investment, supportive policies, extreme drought, and China’s demand for water.

An analysis of the leading system ownership strategies, trends and opportunities, this outlook hinges on projects larger than 10,000 m3/d. Included in the forecast are three scenarios — Reference Case, Water Security, and Global Instability —  for the build-out of large-scale desalination going forward. Included in each scenario are the recent additions, projects under construction and the announced project pipeline.


  • The global desalination sector has not been immune to economic volatility and the overall industrial downturn that has slowed industrial output. This is evident in the 2.1 million m3/d drop-off in large capacity additions from 2010 to 2011 and project pipeline development, which has created a hangover effect in the earlier forecast years, 2014-2015.
  • The end to extreme droughts in new markets like Australia, Spain, and South Africa have eroded once positive market opportunities for private players outside the Middle East, heightening competition for system suppliers and owners.
  • A rebound to the pre-2010 capacity additions for larger systems is not yet in the making based on plants under construction and planned capacity timelines. However, the longer-term outlook is more positive, underpinned by emerging activity in Asia, industrial verticals, and longer term pipelines.

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