Josh Bolinger: Desalinization: Using the Ocean to Satisfy Our Fresh Water Shortage
Desalinization would seem to be the answer to our water problems.
With cities and even entire regions all over the world experiencing chronic water shortages, the massive amounts of salt water in our oceans and many aquifers look very attractive to planners. But desalinization is a difficult process. It is complex, produces large quantities of waste products, and uses so much energy, that currently it is simply impractical for large-scale application in any but the most desperate of situations.
The approach to this problem is two-fold. While research into more efficient desalinization techniques is urgently needed, and is part of my long-range goals for progress, an interim solution may lie in the use of small, portable, energy-efficient devices to scrub water from atmospheric humidity. While these devices will have limited applications in very arid regions, they can still be very useful in the Americas and in much of Asia, where humidity tends to be high, but there are still chronic shortages of drinking water.
I have been working with a group of engineers to produce such a device, and prototyping is proceeding, so we are hopeful that demonstrations will be available in the very near future.
But this is just an interim step. Salt water is an effectively unlimited resource, and research into more efficient and cleaner desalinization methods is urgently needed.