By Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor
Increasingly, water treatment dealers are finding dissolved inorganic solids—a fancy way of saying “salts”—in customers’ drinking water supplies. From California to Maine, salts are prevalent everywhere, with some areas obviously containing more than others. One solution to this problem, as our readers know, is desalination. Now the word “desalination” isn’t used often in the field, but the two most common ways of removing salt are—reverse osmosis (RO) and distillation. But is there more to it? In this review, we search for answers to this query with a closer look at some strictly desalination websites.
For an international organization, this upgraded site leaves nothing to chance. Navigation here is about as easy as it gets. In fact, the Topsfield, Mass.-based International Desalination Association’s (IDA) mission statement consists of one sentence: “IDA is committed to the development and promotion of the appropriate use of desalination technology.” ‘Nuff said? Nope. A non-profit association, the IDA has over 1,000 members in 58 countries. Members include scientists, end users, engineers, consultants and researchers from governments (IDA is associated with the United Nations), corporations and academia.
Clearly, the meat of this site is located within its main buttons at the very top of the home page. They include Membership, Conferences, Organization, Publications, Scholarship, Database, Affiliates, Links and Contact Us. You can find out the dues and benefits for joining the IDA under Membership. Categories are broken down in classes—Class I includes corporations and utilities ($500-$750); Class II are individuals ($85), and Class III is only for full-time students and non-profit libraries ($25). Conferences lists several shows in a calendar-like format with each event containing a hyperlink for more information.
Organization offers a closer look at the folks behind the IDA’s doors including officers, board of directors, committee chairmen, general staff and even the association’s constitution. The IDA’s board of directors is virtually a bevy of international experts with a decided Middle East flavor but also representatives from the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Austria and Japan, among others. A description of accolades and photo accompany each director.
IDA’s newsletter can be found under Publications (“IDA News”) and archives are listed back to the March/April 2001 issue. Links allow you to view and print out the eight-page documents at your leisure. Looking to attract the younger generations’ interest, the site uses Scholarship as a fund to assist young engineers and scientists in graduate studies to further their education in subjects related to desalination. Database gives visitors an opportunity to search for members via three different ways—people, organization and publications. If you wish, one can even add their name to the list of thousands. Lastly, Links shoots you over to a page entitled Desalination Directory Online that could serve as a site unto itself—in fact, it is (www.desline.com).
When is a water-related site actually a book? When it goes by the title “desalination.com: an environmental primer,” and this one does—believe it or not. One of the authors, John Tonner, is also listed as an IDA board member. The home page serves as the preface of the book, which is to introduce readers to the state-of-the-art option in desalination and help them determine if it’s right for them.
After Preface, the other main buttons are Contents, Illustrations, Profiles, FAQs, Cover and Links. Contents lists the chapters and their titles. Illustrations is everything the title says it isn’t; visitors get a list of the diagrams but no hint at what to expect. Are they in color, black and white, what size, where in the book are they located, etc.? Ditto for FAQs as questions are posed as a teaser and the answers are presumably within the book once it’s purchased.
Perhaps the most useful part of this site is found at Links. Unfortunately, only four are listed—Water Consultants International (“specializing in desalination and water reuse; technical and marketing consulting services”), CH2M Hill (“a full-service consulting, engineering, design, construction and operations firm”), Water Desalination Report (“the first and only desalination weekly publication”) and World Wide Water (“the premier website for general desalination information”). Two comments on the last description: One, I checked the site and there are at least three desalination sites that run circles around it and, two, I wonder what the IDA thinks of board member Tonner making that comment, or at least approving of it, on his book’s site?
We go across the pond for this one as the European Desalination Society (EDS) enters the market with a, comparatively speaking, colorful website. Not one to leave anyone out, the EDS invites members from outside of Europe to join in covering the research, applications, consulting, contracting, operation and maintenance, manufacturing, marketing, economics and legislation of desalination. Do they cover all of this in the site? We are here to find out.
Among the site’s main buttons are Members, Events, Newsletter and Join EDS. Furthermore, Members are assorted by board, individuals, companies/institutions and company representatives. What I liked about this site as opposed to the IDA’s is that contact information (from physical addresses to phone numbers and email addresses) is available for each member. Right away, I recognize Suez, Dow and Koch Membrane Systems as companies represented on the list. Companies can be sought using the search function that allows visitors to seek a person by country, surname or key word. Don’t see the name? Fine, go to the next button—company representative—and an alphabetical list appears.
Newsletter serves very little purpose, as the most recent issue offered is April 2003. Albeit, the EDS does deserve credit for the nice 16-page newsletter it produces. Nice job, guys! Meanwhile, Events gives a detailed description of each relevant trade show for the next year or so including contact information. Be prepared to scroll for quite some time. Better that, though, than incomplete listings. To join the EDS, be prepared to fork over anywhere from $42 (retirees) to $219 (companies and organizations). It’s no charge for full-time students and junior members.
Through this review, I believe it’s abundantly clear that, the International Desalination Association website notwithstanding, the worldwide “desal” society has a bit to go before solidifying its base on the World Wide Web. The sites I came across do represent a good start, but if the desalination community hopes to make inroads as a “virtual” community then it’ll need to supplement the inarguable benefits of the treatment option with a solid Internet standing. Many pieces of the puzzle are there; they just need to be pulled together. Until then, we wait patiently.
A Brackish Feeling
When you think of desalination, this is the first name that comes to mind. And they have a website to match such a reputation. Go beyond the surface as the home page screams “minimalism.” Two big plusses not to be missed here: The database library for easy access to members and the desalination directory. Downside: No articles? Blasphemy.
With such a sought-after URL name like this, this site comes up in short in almost every manner possible. If I’m undecided about whether to buy this book or not, this site tips to me to the side of “no dice.” I understand the teaser quotient but halfway through this site, I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things. Note to webmaster: Start over.
Call this one the middle ground of the three sites reviewed here. Great calendar listing with enough information for interested visitors. On the other hand, the “World Bank” link was inoperable when I tried it and, again, a shortage of desalination articles supercedes the accomplishments of a fresh-looking and informative newsletter.