Drinking water from the sea

Desalination “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”   Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

Turning seawater into drinking water has long been one of man’s a quixotic pursuits. Today desalination plants are expensive to build and require much energy; thus a simplified approach has great appeal. Leave it to two Canadians, from a country of unlimited water, to come up with a novel solution. By using sunlight to evaporate and concentrate the salt and natural chemical processes (electrically charged atoms) to separate the sodium and chloride ions in seawater the researchers  have created an efficient technology that consumes a quarter of the energy of current processes. Even better, the technology can work at individual (a rooftop) to industrial scales to bring drinking water to the 20% of the world’s population that live in water-scarce regions that coincidentally often have an abundance of sunshine that is needed for the desalination process. A first plant opens this month in Vancouver – will there soon be water everywhere to drink?

– Troy Sternberg

60% world  Read A fresh way to take the salt out of seawater in The Economist

60-world  Read Michael Hauhs and Olivier Graefe (2009) Sustainable Use of Water from Natural and Social Science Perspectives Geography Compass

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