137. Information Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Office of International Scientific Affairs (Pollack) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Cooperation in Desalting With Other Countries

On December 9, 1964 you established the interagency Committee on Foreign Desalting Programs, chaired by SCI for the Department of State.2 Other members are the Department of the Interior, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of the Budget, the Office of Science and Technology and AID.

The Committee has brought the rapidly developing Israeli program under a reasonable degree of foreign policy guidance and coordination, which was the Department’s initial objective. In addition, the Committee, averaging monthly meetings, has usefully served to: bring to a common focus the interests of the member agencies in cooperative desalting programs with other countries; initiate policy guidelines to serve as the basis for consistency in these programs; establish effective procedures for interagency communication and coordination.

Cooperation with Israel is now well into a jointly financed detailed engineering and economic feasibility study under contract to Kaiser Engineers, Inc. The first phase of the report, due June 15, 1965, will identify the size of the most-favorable plant. The final report, due in October, 1965, will include detailed cost data. Financing of the proposed plant is being studied intensively by the Committee. Pending the conclusion [Page 245] of the feasibility study, we have instructed U.S. officials not to speculate on U.S. financial participation in the plant. (See Deptel 1029 to Amembassy Tel Aviv—attached3).

Cooperation with Other Countries is expanding at a faster rate than is generally appreciated. Technical reports have been exchanged pursuant to our desalting agreement with the U.S.S.R. of November 18, 1964 and visits of technical experts are proposed for this calendar year. A three-man team, representing AEC and Interior, visited the U.A.R. at its request this past December to advise local water authorities on current desalting technology and on a proposed nuclear fueled power-desalting facility. The group also visited Tunisia for similar discussions. Water authority personnel from Greece and Italy have visited U.S. desalting and nuclear facilities. U.S. experts have consulted recently with officials in Athens on a proposed large-scale desalting plant for that city. Interior’s Office of Saline Water has agreed to provide technical advice to Spain regarding a plant for Grand Canary Island. Under IAEA sponsorship Mexico and the U.S. plan a preliminary feasibility study this Fall of a large-scale dual purpose plant located at the northern tip of the Gulf of California. Electricity and water from this plant would be used by both countries. Government officials of Peru, Senegal and Yugoslavia have discussed desalting technology with U.S. Embassy officials and technical reports have been provided to assist their studies. The Office of Saline Water routinely sends its technical reports to 55 countries.

We anticipate that the Department of the Interior-sponsored First International Symposium on Desalination, to be held in Washington October 3–9, 1965, will develop awareness throughout the world of desalting possibilities and stimulate additional interest in many countries for cooperation with the U.S. in this field. Fifty-three countries and six international organizations have indicated their intention to send representatives.

The technology of economical desalting is not much beyond its infancy. The largest desalting plant now in operation produces 1.7 million gallons per day (mgd). There is now in the detailed design phase a plant intended to produce 50 mgd. The Israeli project relates to a plant intended to produce 120 mgd to go into operation in 1970–71. The ability to produce this much water at an economical price is dependent on technology under development but not now on hand.

The U.S. investment in desalination research and development is in the process of being doubled. We are being responsive to the repeated [Page 246] offers of the President to share our knowledge in this field with the nations of the world. At the same time, we are attempting to ensure that the utility and economy of present day desalting technology is not oversold and that desalting is kept in proper juxtaposition by interested countries with other possible solutions to their water problems.4

  1. Source: Department of State,SCI Files: Lot 71 D 483. Limited Official Use. Drafted by William C. Salmon (SCI). Copies were sent to George Ball, Thomas Mann, Llewellyn Thompson, and William Crockett.
  2. See Document 136.
  3. Not attached. Telegram 1029 to Tel Aviv is dated April 9. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, ORG 7 NEA)
  4. In a June 19 memorandum to Rusk, Pollack repeated his concerns: “Other countries are seeking solutions to water problems through desalination because it is being highly advertised (and because it is being increasingly related to nuclear energy sources which have separate attractions) when a properly conducted water resources survey might reveal far simpler, cheaper and more effective answers.” (Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 152)