Earth, our precious blue planet. 70% of it is covered with water. 97% of the water is salt water in the oceans. That is, only 3 percent of the water body that covers our world is fresh water. Of that, 1 percent is accessible, with the rest trapped underground and in ice floes. The result: Just 0.007% of the blue planet’s water helps 7 billion people and other creatures survive. Despite the scarce resource, we now also have a water crisis.
If there is no water, there is no life. Water is a critical resource not only for the survival of humans, whose body is 60 percent water, but also for producing food and clothing.
72 percent of water is used in agriculture and livestock industry, 16 percent in households and 12 percent in different industries as production input.
Issues such as wild production and consumption patterns, climate and environmental crisis are already ringing alarm bells for ‘water’. A vital threat of water scarcity awaits humanity.
According to the World Water Institute, almost two billion people in 17 countries are heading straight for a severe water crisis in the coming years. The UN warns that this will lead to the displacement of 700 million people by 2040. Turkey is among the 30 countries that are likely to experience a severe water crisis in 2040.
Well, can’t there be a chance to expand the 0.007 percent fresh water supply with the salt water found in the oceans? It’s possible. But with a very high bill…
Converting sea water to fresh water.
Desalination is the process of removing mineral salts dissolved in water. This process applied to sea water is one of the most used processes to obtain fresh water.
Desalination is actually a process that happens naturally during the water cycle. Evaporation of seawater leaves salt behind, which creates clouds that cause rain. Aristotle observed that seawater that evaporated and condensed would turn into fresh water. Da Vinci also demonstrated that it is possible to do this artificially using a still.
In the following centuries, seawater desalination was used to provide fresh water to crews during long voyages, especially on boats and submarines. However, this process did not exist on a large scale until the industrial revolution and especially the development of desalination plants. However, today it is used on a large scale.
The first country to adopt this process en masse was Australia, which was scorched by the Millennium Drought between 1997 and 2009. Today, one-third of Melbourne’s water needs are met by this method.
The largest desalination plants are located in wealthy Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar currently produce about half of the world’s desalinated water. Obtaining fresh water from sea water is a very costly process. Using this water for agriculture is extremely expensive. Therefore, these countries use it only as drinking water.
There are more than 400 desalination plants in the USA, mostly in California, Texas and Florida. Most of them are located near natural gas plants to take advantage of the heat generated in power plants. In Israel, more than half of the drinking water comes from the desalination of seawater from the Mediterranean.
This process is not innocent in terms of both cost and environmental impact. Many desalination processes require water to be heated, pressurized, or both. This creates a very high energy cost (to the environment and to the budget). At the same time, the salt separated from the water is pumped back into the seas. This leads to negative consequences that affect the natural structure of the ecosystem.
Scientists are looking for ways to do this in ways that will not burden the environment and the budget. When these efficient methods can be developed and scaled, humanity can at least breathe a sigh of relief on water for a while and continue to brood over what to do with the remaining environmental and vital issues.