HC Deb 18 October 1972 vol 843 cc256-7
25. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment by what date he expects that the first full-scale plant for the desalination of salt water will be operating in Great Britain.

Mr. Peter Walker

In the light of the latest information, it seems unlikely that desalination will make any substantial contribution to water resources in the immediate future, although there may be some desalting applications and also some contribution to purification of river water and processing of effluent. I am anxious to examine any developments in this sphere and if viable to give them every encouragement.

Mr. Farr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a projected shortage of water in the South-East by the 1980s and that the construction of reservoirs is becoming more difficult for geographic and environmental reasons? Will he tell the House what happened to the Ipswich desalination plant which was temporarily postponed a year or so ago and of which we have heard no more?

Mr. Walker

The Government offered to pay the majority of the money required for that project, but the private sector involved was unwilling in the end to put in any money whatsoever. As a result, our judgment was that it was right to obtain from them the technical information they had available, which may be of use at a later stage, and to try to obtain some European collaboration in this sphere.

Mr. Hooson

Is it correct that research in many countries shows that the escalating costs of desalination virtually rule it out for this century?

Mr. Walker

Certainly my Department is trying to maintain contact with all developers in this sphere world-wide. We hope there may be a breakthrough, but at the moment there is no indication that there will be.