Can Drinking Seawater Be Safe?

It’s no secret that the world is running out of fresh water. According to the United Nations, more than 1 billion people currently live in areas where water is scarce. And by 2025, that number is expected to increase to 1.8 billion. One possible solution to this problem is desalination: the process of removing salt from seawater so that it can be used for drinking and other purposes. But is desalinating seawater safe? Can it be done in a way that doesn’t harm the environment? In this blog post, we will explore these questions and more!

Why Can’t We Drink Seawater As Is?

It may seem strange to think that we face a drinking water shortage when 71% of the planet is covered in H2O. But much of this water isn’t fit for human consumption. In particular, seawater is dangerous to drink because it contains high levels of salt.

When we drink seawater, the salt causes our bodies to become dehydrated. We lose water faster than we can replace it, and this can lead to serious health problems — such as heat stroke, kidney failure, and even death. Plus, high salt intake contributes to other issues like high blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease and strokes. So drinking unprocessed seawater is unfortunately out of the question, as it’s both unpleasant and harmful. However, there are ways to turn salt water into something more potable, such as through desalination.

What Is Desalination?

Desalination is a process that removes salt from seawater so that it can be used for drinking and other purposes. It is, essentially, a form of water filtration. To achieve drinkable water, there are two main methods of desalination: reverse osmosis and distillation.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is the most common method of desalination. It works by using a semipermeable membrane to filter out the salt from seawater. The filtered water is then sent to a holding tank where the salt is removed.


Distillation is another method of desalinating seawater. It works by heating seawater to a boiling point. The water evaporates and rises to the top of the distiller, leaving the salt behind. The water vapor is then condensed and collected in a holding tank, clean and salt-free.

Is Desalinating Seawater Practical?

Yes and no. On one hand, it is a very effective way to provide fresh water in areas where it is scarce. On the other hand, it is expensive and energy-intensive, as it requires a lot of electricity to power the desalination process. Additionally, desalination produces brine — water that is high in salt — as a waste product. This brine must be properly disposed of, which can add to the cost and environmental impact of desalination. Not to mention that the desalinated water must then be transported from its processing center to areas in need of fresh drinking water.

Does Desalinated Water Still Need to Be Filtered?

Yes, it does. While the ocean is a natural ecosystem, that doesn’t make its water pure. Even after the salt has been removed, desalinated water can still contain high levels of other minerals that can be harmful if ingested. These minerals must be removed before the water is safe to drink. For instance, desalinated water may still carry lead, iron, and other heavy metals, even after processing. Additionally, desalinated water may contain bacteria that can cause illness, making additional filtration a necessary step before drinking desalinated seawater.

What Other Contaminants Can Affect Drinking Water?

Drinking seawater can taste awful and pose a serious threat to your health. But salt isn’t the only mineral or contaminant that can disrupt your safe hydration. Even if you get your tap water from a trusted water source, there are a few other things you should look out for. These potential contaminants include:

Bacteria: Bacteria in your drinking water can cause serious illness or even death. For instance, the most common bacteria in American tap water are coliform bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. But more serious bacteria contamination can also involve microbes like Legionella (which can cause Legionnaires’ disease) or E. coli (which can cause severe food poisoning).

Lead: Lead is a metal that can be found in old pipes, solder, and fixtures. It can enter your water through these sources and cause serious health problems, especially in young children and pregnant women. These health problems include learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and anemia.

Nitrates: Nitrates are compounds that can enter your water through agricultural runoff or septic tank leakage. They can be harmful to infants, pregnant women, and the elderly. High nitrate levels in drinking water can even cause “blue baby syndrome,” which can be fatal.

Chemicals: Chemicals like chlorine and fluoride are often added to water to kill bacteria or improve dental health. However, these chemicals can also be harmful if ingested at high levels. For instance, too much chlorine can cause gastrointestinal problems, and too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis.

Enjoy Clean, Delicious Water with The Science of Water

No matter what kind of water source you’re on, from private wells to municipal systems, it’s important to prioritize the cleanliness of your drinking water. Whole-home filtration systems can help remove harmful minerals and other contaminants, even from desalinated water.

At The Science of Water, we assess and install water filtration systems to meet your unique needs. Using filtration technology backed by NASA and the EPA, our advanced water systems purify your water supply to the highest standard. Whatever you’re looking for in a water filtration system, we can help you enjoy tap water in your home that’s clear of contaminants and safe to drink.

We also offer free water quality testing and consultations. So when you need answers about the safety of your local water supply, our technicians can assess your situation for waterborne threats and recommend the perfect filtration system to suit your needs and budget.

Delicious in-home water is within your reach. Get your water tested today to protect your household with pure, clean water that can be relied on. For more information about The Science of Water or to book your free water test, just get in touch with our team today!