It’s becoming increasingly clear that the world’s starting to run out of water. However recently a new technology has been invented which, as I’m about to explain here on the Htet Tayza blog, could go some way towards solving the world’s ever-worsening water crisis.
Water is the world’s most valuable commodity; humanity needs water to survive. This is why historic towns and cities were always built near rivers, lakes and seas; because with limited technology, societies needed to base themselves near bountiful water sources to thrive.
We’ve now developed technology that makes it easier to transport water, and a roaring bottled water industry has grown up around the world. Yet this hasn’t made our lives easier, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that global warming is depleting the planet’s water supply. According to the Water Project, 783 million people across the world don’t have access to safe, clean water.
We do have plenty of salt water, but it needs to be purified to render it drinkable. However, current purification methods, such as the reverse osmosis process commonly used in Egypt, the Middle East and Africa, are extremely difficult and expensive. The Water Project statistics reveal that 37% of people without access to clean, safe water live in sub-Saharan Africa.
These poor countries don’t have access to the capital and technology needed to utilise current water purification processes. Yet Science Alert has reported that a team of researchers at Egypt’s Alexandria University have now developed a new technology which could provide water-poor counties with the relief they so sorely need.
This technology employs a desalination technique called “pervaporation” to remove salt from sea water; rendering it drinkable. The process employs specifically created membranes to filter large salt particles and impurities out of the water, so they can be evaporated away. The rest is then heated, vapourised and condensed back into clean water.
What makes this process so effective is that the membranes it uses to filter salt and impurities out of sea water can be manufactured from cheap, local materials in any standard lab. Along with the fact that electricity isn’t necessary for pervaporation, this means that this process can give developing countries without regular power supplies the ability to produce cost-effective drinking water.
Helmy El-Zanfaly, a professor of water contamination at Egypt’s National Research Centre, commented on the development of this technology to Scidev.net. He said that “it can effectively desalinate water with high concentration of salt like that of the Red Sea, where desalination costs more and yields less,” as well as remove sewage and dirt from water, to make it drinkable.
Solving the crisis
The Science Alert piece explained that a lot of work is still required before the pervaporation process can be put into action. It seems clear to me that once this work is carried out, this cost-effective water purification technology will bring clean drinking water to those who need it most, going some way towards solving the world’s rapidly worsening water crisis.