Greening the Islands Foundation

Solar Desalination Has a Big Role to Play for Water Security on Small Islands. What Are the Barriers to Overcome?  

The GTI Observatory Members Contribute to Water Europe’s White Paper 


Ensuring water security is gaining relevance by the minute in climate change-strained islands worldwide. Many small islands have limited freshwater resources, around 71% of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face water scarcity risks, according to UNESCO. 


Climate change-related impacts on islands, including droughts and floods, is increasing at a faster rate than the global average, further straining water security. Besides islanders’ wellbeing, water scarcity can further hinder their economic development, limiting industries and impacting tourism and agriculture. 


The Greening the Islands Observatory recently hosted a workshop for its members on implementing solar desalination in islands, a technology with ground-breaking potential. Co-organised with Water Europe, Desal+ Living Lab, Instituto Tecnologico de Canarias, and Sustainable Desalination Living Lab, the event took place on June 26, 2024. 


To build a water-smart society, Water Europe has developed a vision based on water security, sustainability and resilience, and its working group on Renewable Energy Desalination has the objective to promote solar desalination in islands, in strong synergy with the mission of Greening the Islands (GTI) Foundation to match islands’ needs with innovative solutions.  


Water Europe’s working group is preparing a White Paper on the “Implementation of solar desalination islands”, and the workshop provided the members of the GTI Observatory the unique opportunity to deep dive the subject and offer their contributions to the document. 


The session, introduced and moderated by Borja Blanco, GTI Water Specialist, delved into the crucial aspect of water security for small islands and the opportunities for achieving that through sustainable, renewable-based desalination. In a collaborative approach, participants addressed challenges, exchanged lessons learned, and analysed best practices from stakeholders of different regions including the Mediterranean, Baltic Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. 


Distinguished experts participated including Guillermo Zaragoza, Water Europe and Sustainable Desalination Living Lab, Juan Antonio de la Fuente, ITC and Desal+ Living Lab, Dimitris Xevgenos, Water Europe and TU Delft, Amelia Morey Strömberg, Water Europe and Vatteninfo. Gianni Chianetta, Chair of Greening the Islands Foundation, showcased the role of the water cycle in the GTI Observatory index for island sustainability. 

The detailed outcomes from the session, specific barriers and opportunities identified by these first-hand actors, and the full recording of the workshop are available to the GTI Observatory members.  

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As it emerged during the workshop, implementing solar desalination in islands still faces several barriers. However, the technology holds great potential contribute to the sustainable transition of islands, as showcased by increasingly numerous case studies. Indeed, solar desalination can provide a reliable, inexhaustible, scalable, and clean source for islands facing water scarcity, reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels and improving livelihoods. 


By addressing the barriers and leveraging the opportunities, solar desalination can play a critical role in ensuring water security and promoting sustainable development in island communities. Greening the Islands Foundation is committed to continue focusing on this essential topic, analysing challenges and monitoring innovative solutions, as islands face worsening climate risks.  

GTI Foundation

GTI Foundation

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