Each day, over 5,000 children die from diarrhea-related diseases developed from unsafe drinking water. Approximately one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water; one billion people about equates to one out of every six individuals. The deaths resulting from unsafe drinking water are greater than the number of deaths caused by war. We all must work together to find new sources of freshwater so that everyone in the world will have adequate supplies of safe drinking water. This essay will outline current and future technologies that will be available to resolve this problem in the coming years.
Water covers nearly three quarters of the Earth, yet people still die everyday from the lack of fresh water. How is this possible? Only three percent of the planet’s water is fresh water, and a small amount of that constitutes water not found in snow or ice. Depletion of this fresh water is occurring at a faster rate than replenishment, creating a fresh water crisis. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) project that within 40 years, four billion people—nearly two thirds of the world’s population today—will face major fresh water shortages. This problem cannot be solved by any one group of people, yet at the heart of the matter lays engineering. Engineers need to optimize current technologies:
1. Desalination of ocean water
2. Diversion of water
3. Recycling of wastewater/irrigation
Also, engineers need to continue to develop new technologies. New projects on the horizon of fresh water engineering include:
1. Nano-osmosis of ocean water
2. Decentralized distillation units in rural areas
3. Strategies for reducing water use
Desalination of ocean water presents enormous challenges which must be overcome before it can be considered as a “solution” to the fresh water crisis. Desalination is the process which extracts the salt from seawater. Modern desalination projects use a method called “reverse osmosis,” which separates the salt from ocean water by pushing the water through a membrane at high pressures. The idea of desalination is not a new one; today, over 12,000 desalination plants operate around the globe . However, while the idea seems sound, the actual implementation of the process costs extraordinary amounts of money due to the large amounts of energy needed to run the process. Many of the 12,000 desalination plants that are in operation are located in coastal regions of high affluence. Yet, the areas in dire need of freshwater include the Middle East and northern Africa, which areas of limited water access and financial support. If the costs of energy use in the desalination process cannot be lowered it will not be able to solve the fresh water problem.
Countries such as the United States, China, and India have employed large-scale operations to divert water from regions with an abundance of fresh water to regions lacking in fresh water supplies. These programs have been...