Water, the essence of life, can no longer be considered a natural, self-renewable, low-cost resource in most arid and semi-arid regions. In order to alleviate water scarcity, new water supply sources are in need to augment available resources. Desalination has received wide acceptance in arid countries because of the alarming rate at which conventional water resources are depleted. The present study aims at examining the impacts of the desalination industry in water-stressed regions. The economics of desalination are compared with conventional and non-conventional water options, taking environmental impacts into consideration. Social and political constraints associated with desalination are outlined with emphasis on its merits and drawbacks in national and/or regional water policies. The paper concludes with emerging water management concepts that can aid arid and semi-arid countries in coping with water shortage.

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