I recorded a litany of woe from Phys.org regarding water but hadn’t really had the spark that leads to an article:
- Groundwater resources around the world could be depleted by 2050s
- 11 percent of disappearing groundwater used to grow internationally traded food
- Deep groundwater aquifers respond rapidly to climate variability
Most of what I have to say any more is about Functional Triage, but this is one of those rare moments where there is a glimmer of hope. Graphene Sieve Turns Sea Water Into Drinking Water is precisely the sort of news we need.
If you want to make drinking water out of sea water there are a variety of methods, which can be summed up as ‘boil & condense’ or ‘push through a filter’. Graphene is the later variety and the reason it’s exciting are the questions of scale and energy input. If you can build a large plant cheaply, or a small system that works, that’s a win. If it takes much less energy than current reverse osmosis, that’s even better.
I haven’t seen any studies about the details, but I think it would be great if a city with nearby high ground could pump seawater up, using tides or wind energy, then the natural pressure of the gradient would be sufficient to produce drinking water at the base.
That middle article keeps drawing my eye. Our international food trade happens quickly – think fresh fruit year round by jet, and it happens slowly in bulk. Look at where we produce wheat and where we don’t have enough water per capita.
And then finally, look at the fragile states index:
As global wheat trade changes, because oil is more dear, because irrigation water is exhausted, we come right back to Functional Triage. If we can start producing graphene desalination systems that work at nominal pressure, perhaps coupled with solar power or simple gravity pressure, that changes things in many places. It doesn’t fix the large scale winnners/losers problem, but it softens things along the margins, and that’s where humanity will survive in pockets.