Search type


Joe Williams

Contact details


  • MSc Environment and Development (Distinction), University of Edinburgh 2011-2012
  • BA Geography (First Class Honours), University of Manchester 2008-2011

Thesis title

Critical perspectives on the water-energy nexus: seawater desalination in San Diego and Baja California.


Research details

Large-scale seawater desalination has emerged as a significant alternative water source for metropolitan regions wishing to augment or supplement their freshwater supply. This energy-intense and expensive technology, although offering a drought and climate-proof water source option, represents a technical ‘fix’ that does not address the deeper contradictions of energy and water consumption. My research offers critical insights on the water-energy nexus, an emerging body of literature that considers the interrelations, tensions and synergies between two sectors that have traditionally been considered as distinct. Theoretically, my work is grounded in a Marxist urban political ecology framework, but also draws on insights from STS, ‘new’ materialism, and assemblage theory. This research is based in the San Diego area, where a number of large desalination facilities will start producing freshwater over next 4-5 years. These include the Carlsbad Desalination Project, currently under construction, which will be the largest desalination facility in the Western Hemisphere, and two proposed ‘binational’ facilities at Rosarito Beach, Mexico, which will supply both the USA and Mexico with freshwater.

Research interests

  • Water-energy nexus
  • Urban political ecology
  • Political economy
  • Science and Technology Studies (STS)
  • Historical materialism
  • Urban infrastructure
  • Seawater desalination