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Albert Khaoutiev
Albert Khaoutiev

In this article, I would like to talk about the most important need for a human being. Even on the planet Mars, scientists have been looking for it. It is one of the most essential natural resources in the world… water!

There have already been many wars over energy resources such as oil or gas. Some predict future wars over water. Will that prediction come true? We do not know yet, but we can act so this scenario never sees the light of day.

Let’s have a look at the current situation first.

 

Water, what is it exactly?

The water molecule is formed of an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms.  H2O (H for hydrogen and O for oxygen)  is present in three  states: liquid, solid (ice), and water vapour in the air. It covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface. Its uses are various:

  • Drinking and domestic purposes: water is the main component of the human body. It contains around 70% water, depending on body size. Nowadays, there are seven  billion people on the planet, and their consumption is constantly rising.
  • Agricultural purposes: mainly used in irrigation to assist in the growing of agricultural crops.
  • Industrial purposes: almost a universal solvent, water is capable of dissolving a large number of compounds. It is therefore  used by many industries to wash, rinse, soak and dissolve. Water is also used in the nuclear industry as a carrier of heat as it is able to store, conduct and then restore very large amounts of energy.

 

Enough water for everyone?

According to the UN, water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical water scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage.

British newspaper The Independent informs us that water scarcity is now an even bigger threat than the financial crisis.

There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people, but it is unevenly distributed and too much is wasted, polluted or unsustainably managed.

 

Action and options?

Some areas are very dry and water is hard to find. In others, it is literally only a few feet below ground, waiting to sustain life.

There are many organisations trying to help face water scarcity such as “The Water Project, Inc.”   a non-profit organisation working to provide access to clean water for  people in developing nations who suffer without it and  “The Global Water Foundation” , another organisation dedicated to delivering clean water and sanitation to the world’s neediest communities.

One more thing, have you asked yourself whether it is possible to use seawater in our daily life? The answer is …yes it is! There are different methods to transform salt water into fresh water, and most commonly used processes being distillation and reverse osmosis.

Distillation

involves sea water evaporation, either by using the heat from solar radiation or by heating it in a furnace. Water molecules escape, leaving the dissolved salts and other substances in seawater. Fresh water can be obtained from condensing water vapour.

Reverse osmosis

 requires first treating seawater by filtering   and disinfecting in order to get rid of particles in suspension and microorganisms contained in it.    Afterwards, we need to apply sufficient pressure to the salt water:  only water molecules will pass through a semi-permeable membrane, thereby providing fresh potable water.

However, these processes are very expensive. The plants are unprofitable:  amounts of energy required for heating or compressing the water are too high, and the volume of water produced too low.

Only some rich countries with very limited water resources such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, can afford seawater desalination to produce fresh water for human consumption.

Finally, water scarcity is both a natural or man-made phenomenon.

The debate is open.