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Tags: water | desalination | reverseosmosis

Water, Water, Everywhere — and Plenty to Drink

Water, Water, Everywhere — and Plenty to Drink
Workers walk past water swirling in salinity tanks at Britain's first-ever mainland desalination plant, which is known as the Thames Gateway Water Treatment Works. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

David Nabhan By Tuesday, 15 September 2020 08:12 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

In all of the Western Hemisphere there are only two landlocked countries — Bolivia and Paraguay — while in Africa 37 countries have access to the sea. There are some 372,000 miles of coastline on Earth, with two and a half billion people living within 60 miles of that planetary shoreline.

And yet with 71% of the world's surface covered with a mind-boggling 315 million cubic miles of water in the oceans, one of the great specters for professional alarmists is the impending "water crisis." Their answer to the problem of increasing population and diminishing fresh water is much the same as with so many other of their heavy-handed solutions: ration water, outlaw residential lawns and, of course, a new water tax to go along with their carbon taxes.

There are other less draconian alternatives, however — the options the catastrophists seem always to ignore. In this case though it should be fairly difficult to overlook and dismiss the 352,670,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water in the oceans, as if it were impossible to remove the salt.

Humanity has been distilling fresh water from seawater for thousands of years, and while boiling massive volumes of water is certainly cost prohibitive, there is another salt extraction method, and one that has been in use since the first commercial plant's inception in Coalinga, California in 1965.

There are currently 18,000 desalination plants worldwide which use a technique called "reverse osmosis" to convert saltwater to potable water. Seawater is pushed at high pressure through membranes stippled with minuscule pores — less than one hundredth the diameter of a human hair — such that the fresh water is forced through the microscopic openings yet leaving the bulkier molecules of sodium chloride, salt, on the other side of the porous barrier to be flushed back into the sea.

There's little doubt about the viability of the process. Israel, for example, currently gets close to 60% of its water from its three dozen reverse osmosis desalination plants; that percent will rise to 70% in the next decades.

At present, the method is fairly expensive since sizable power is required to create the high pressure and the filters need frequent replacing. Nevertheless, the next generation of reverse osmosis technology will certainly bring an increase in efficiency and a decrease in cost.

Researchers in the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and elsewhere are developing new more durable filters from graphene, titanium dioxide and other materials, some with apertures of only one atom wide through which water can pass under less pressure. In 2013 Lockheed Martin patented a graphene membrane that the company claims "can desalinate water at a fraction of the current cost."

But scaremongering has little interest in technological answers to real-world problems, especially when a far simpler remedy is to congregate a crowd of protesting sign-wielders to demand water taxes, oppressive restrictions and to shout down scientific solutions. And that's precisely what is transpiring in California, for example, ironically in the very place where reverse osmosis desalination was first put to use.

In 2018 a group of self-styled environmentalists gathered to protest a proposed billion-dollar desalination plant in Huntington Beach. As to why anyone should be opposed to parched California taking rational steps to provide much-needed water to its citizenry, the demonstrators voiced a truly Orwellian talking point: the plant would be discharging briny water back into the sea.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength — and pumping saltwater back into an ocean of saltwater is a supposed affront as well.

David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. Read David Nabhan's Reports — More Here.

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There are currently 18,000 desalination plants worldwide which use a technique called "reverse osmosis" to convert saltwater to potable water.
water, desalination, reverseosmosis
Tuesday, 15 September 2020 08:12 AM
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