Desalination a valuable resource in addressing water scarcity


Photo from TheLeader DotInfo, flickr

Tyler Chalfant | October 22nd, 2019

As fresh water becomes increasingly scarce, countries are relying on desalinating seawater to prevent a crisis. Desalination plants remove salt to make seawater clean and drinkable through a process known as reverse osmosis. 

Scientists predict that the effects of climate change, a growing population, and the depletion of groundwater resources place a quarter of the global population at risk of running out of water in the near future. This risk is especially high in the Middle East and North Africa, where many of the desalination plants are being built. Saudia Arabia, the global leader in desalination, accounts for about one-fifth of all production. 

Other affluent countries, including Australia, China, Spain, and the United States, have begun producing desalinated water in water-stressed areas. However, the cost has been prohibitive to many countries. Researchers are studying how to improve the process to make it more affordable and accessible. 

Desalinated seawater is an important resource, that currently accounts for about one percent of the world’s fresh water. But the process is not without environmental risks, including a brine byproduct that contains toxic treatment chemicals, as well as high amounts of salt. Desalination also requires large amounts of energy, and as a result adds to the burning of fossil fuels and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. 

America’s risk for water scarcity linked to drought conditions


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Photo by Burning Rubber; Flickr

A new report from Columbia University’s Water Center reveals that some of America’s businesses and cities are undergoing a much greater risk than before of water scarcity. Continue reading

Midwestern water has unexpected future value


Photo by Shes Not There, Flickr

The Great Lakes provides the Midwestern United States with a hefty water supply, beautiful scenery as well as fishing and recreational oppertunities.  However, the water itself has the potential to become far more valuable as time goes on.

Midwest Energy News reports:

Journalist (and regular contributor to Midwest Energy News) Dan Haugen directed my attention to an interesting column by Eric Reguly in the Toronto Globe and Mail on water scarcity and industrial growth.

In a nutshell, while China and other Asian countries provide cheap labor, they’re limited by increasing demand on limited water resources.

Anyone who watches China closely cites water scarcity as the biggest threat to the country’s growth. In a recent presentation to clients, Michael Komesaroff of Urandaline Investments, an Australian consulting firm that specializes in capital-intensive industries, especially Chinese ones, called water “the one issue with the potential to stop China’s growth and rewrite the China Story.” Note the word “stop,” not “slow.”

As water becomes more scarce, Reguly argues, opportunities for industrial expansion will open up in countries like Canada. It’s already making things like incredibly water-intensive oil sands extraction practical in places where it otherwise may not.

Suncor, the oil sands giant, is one of the world’s most water-intensive companies, as measured by direct water withdrawal per $1 million in revenue. Teck Resources is another hog. But water scarcity isn’t an existential risk for companies here, although many are trying to reduce their water footprints. If the geological gods had plunked the oil sands in the western United States instead of Western Canada, they probably wouldn’t have been developed.

But you know who else has a lot of water? The upper Midwest. All the more reason, as Forbes writer Chris Turner pointed out last week, why cleantech manufacturing will be vital for the region’s economic future.