Social aspects of a solar-powered desalination unit for remote Australian communities

01 November 2010

The technical, economic and environmental aspects of small-scale desalination units powered by renewable energies for remote areas have received considerable attention in recent years. However, social aspects of such units have often been neglected resulting in abandoned and dysfunctional systems. This paper considers the potential of the reverse osmosis solar installation (ROSI) to be integrated at a number of different sites in Central Australia. Performance is evaluated against attributes of social sustainability, such as the unit's capacity to meet community water needs (both quality and quantity), the human resources available to operate and maintain the unit and the community response to the unit. From this preliminary evaluation, a number of operation and management recommendations relating to membrane choice, recovery rate and maintenance provision are made to ensure the potential offered by ROSI is fulfilled in a socially sustainable manner. Areas requiring further research are also identified.