In the past decade, Perth and San Diego have both added desalination technology to their suite of water resources. In both contexts, the "independence" that desalination purportedly offers is a shorthand for diversification and drought-proofing in places where future water supplies appear uncertain. Yet the rhetoric of independence may be little more than an illusion, at best, simplifying, or at worst, misrepresenting, the complexity of water management in the face of climate change, climate variability and population growth. Focusing on desalination, this article examines the different paths that Perth and San Diego have taken toward "independent" water supplies. It explores the cultural and political resonance of independence in these Western contexts, and argues that the invocation of independence is more a rhetorical strategy for political gain than a realistic approach to urban water management.


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