As of 2014, over 120 countries have at least one desalination plant. These countries include: the United States, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Algeria, Aruba, Chile, Spain, Cyprus, Egypt, Grand Cayman, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Iran, Israel, Malta, Gibraltar, Maldives, Cape Verde, South Africa, Portugal, Greece, Italy, India, China, Japan, Australia and Trinidad and Tobago.
Most desalination plants exist in Middle East and North African countries, where freshwater is scarce. Plants are set up in seaside cities so that water can be easily collected. Saltwater makes up 97.5 percent of all water on Earth. Of the 2.5 percent of freshwater, more than two-thirds are tied up in glaciers and ice caps. This lack of natural freshwater has created the need for desalination plants to provide clean water for drinking and irrigation. Desalination plants remove salt and minerals from water one of two ways: distillation or reverse osmosis. One drawback to desalination plants is the amount of energy needed for power. However, this technology is scalable, meaning that desalination plants can be downsized to provide clean water for an individual city and much smaller units can service villages or households. As technology improves the process for desalination, more countries are considering plant operations.