Scarcity To Abundance: Future Water Shortage Or Water Windfall?

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According to the World Health Organisation, 1.6 million people die each year from diarrhoeal diseases attributable to lack of safe drinking water as well as basic sanitation. Just last month, Unesco’s world water development report warned that the planet could suffer a 40% shortfall in 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of resources. As the global conversations around water usage and conservation ramp up (California in particular is a hot topic this week), there is a race to engineer innovative water technology solutions. How will we solve the problem of scarcity when it comes to clean, fresh drinking water?

A research team from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed a prototype filtration system using nanotechnology. The technology removes microbes, bacteria and other matter from water using composite nanoparticles, which emit silver ions that destroy contaminants, all for about $2.50 a year p/family. Similarly, the ‘Lifesaver’ bottle pumps water through a nano-size filter that does pretty much the same thing, for 0.03c p/liter.

Though prohibitively expensive to consider at this point in time, desalination via biomimicry is another option being explored in Singapore; “mimicking the biological processes by which mangrove plants and euryhaline fish (fish that can live in fresh briny or salt water) extract seawater using minimal energy. Another new approach is to use biomimetic membranes enhanced with aquaporin: proteins embedded in cell membranes that selectively shuttle water in and out of cells while blocking out salts” (The Guardian), both of which if effective, will transform our access to fresh water on a massive scale.

From a farming standpoint, though growing glaciers may seem like a radical irrigation solution right now, a 73-yr-old civic engineer from India dubbed the “Ice Man” has found a way to seed artificial glaciers; and in other news geoengineering rain is being discussed by the World Meteorological Society. It would seem truly anything is possible.


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