Seawater desalination is a promising approach to satisfying water demand in coastal countries suffering from water scarcity. To clarify its potential future global scale, we perform a detailed investigation of the economic feasibility of desalination development for different countries using a feasibility index (Fi
) that reflects a comparison between the price of water and the cost of production. We consider both past and future time periods. For historical validation, Fi
is first evaluated for nine major desalination countries; its variation is in good agreement with the actual historical development of desalination in these countries on both spatial and temporal scales. We then simulate the period of 2015–2050 for a Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP2) and two climate scenarios. Our projected results suggest that desalination will become more feasible for countries undergoing continued development by 2050. The corresponding total global desalination population will increase by 3.2-fold in 2050 compared to the present (from 551.6 × 106
in 2015 to 1768 × 106
). The major spread of seawater desalination to more countries and its availability to larger populations is mainly attributed to the diminishing production costs and increasing water prices in these countries under the given socioeconomic/climate scenarios.
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