To desalinate or divert? A comparative supply cost analysis for north coastal China

Fei Li, Eran Feitelson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Seawater desalination is largely presented as a last resort to address water scarcity in closed basins. The question of whether seawater desalination can substitute for other costly measures, specifically large-scale diversion, has not been adequately assessed. To this end the full unit cost of supplying water to Beijing from the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the largest in the world, is compared to desalination. Desalination appears to be much more cost-efficient than diversion, even when the diversion’s environmental externalities are excluded. By implementing desalination and water management options, China could substantially reduce water costs; this suggests that desalination should not be viewed only as a last resort.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Water Resources Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • China
  • Seawater desalination
  • inter-basin diversion
  • supply cost
  • water policy


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