Tapping the Oceans: A dialogue between social and technical research on desalination

Wicked debate on desalination

  • 26 Jul 2018
  • 17:00 - 18:00
  • Westvest 7, Delft, Auditorium A1b
Western Europe
Delft, The Netherlands

Desalination has gained relevance in a context where water scarcity has become an undeniable reality. It is a technology that has long been used for creating potable water, but it has grown in scale and reach in the last 2 decades. Most of the desalination literature focuses on technical, engineering, and managerial issues, however there is more to it. Techno-managerial concerns around desalination are embedded with political, socio-ecological, and economic power relations.

Desalination for water management

A dialogue between social and technical research on desalination is a perfect opportunity to understand the spectrum of dimensions converging in the treatment of seawater for human consumption. The debate will allow the audience to understand the techniques and methods of the technology, while putting them into conversation with their socio-political, economic and environmental implications. We hope to trigger a fruitful and critical conversation about the desirability and efficiency of desalination for water management in the present and in the future.


17:00 hrs Word of welcome by Natalia Reyes, representative of IHE Delft's PhD community

17:05 – 17:20 The technological evolution of desalination by Prof. Maria D. Kennedy

17:20 – 17:35 Politicizing desalination by Dr. Joe Williams

17:35 – 17:55 Public discussions and questions

17:55 – 18:00 Closure by Akosua Bokaye, a representative of IHE Delft's PhD community


The wicked debate speakers are two desalination experts. Each of them come from a particular epistemological and scientific field for studying the technique. They will put their knowledge into dialogue in a true interdisciplinary and critical spirit.

Dr. Joe Williams is an Assistant Professor in Human Geography at the Durham University. Dr. Williams’ interests broadly encompass urban studies, political ecology, development, science and technology, and political economy. He engages with contemporary theoretical debates in materialist social philosophy around the politics of relationality, social power, environmental transformation and posthuman thought through interdisciplinary research projects.

Dr. Maria Kennedy is a Professor of Water Treatment Technology at IHE Delft. Professor Kennedy has 11 years of research experience and currently specializes in research and development in the field of membrane technology, including microfiltration, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and electrodialysis for potable and industrial water treatment and water reuse.


Please download the flyer of the wicked debate here and register with Ms. Natalia Reyes, PhD fellow, if you are not a staff member, PhD fellow or student of IHE Delft.


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