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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Save Water, Share a Shower

Save Water, Share a Shower

In parts of Jordan, one is allowed to turn on the faucet only once a week. The lack of clean water around the world is astonishing, and many say that it may be the reason for many of the wars in the future. If technology provides a solution, this tragedy may be averted.

However it isn’t the panacea that man demand. More often than not, the problem of water is just diverted. The main issue is waste – both the lack of conservation of clean water and of the improper disposal of pollutants.

The most popular technology working to solve water shortages is desalination. With 13,000 plants and counting, these aesthetically displeasing technological behemoths turn seawater into fresh water. Currently, many of the plants use groundwater since it has less salt. The process requires two mechanisms: a siphoning source to obtain the brackish water and pressure pumps most commonly using reverse osmosis, ridding the water of salt and other impurities. The problem with desalination is the cost and the waste. So far, only wealthy countries with isolationist foreign policies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have been able to benefit from the technology.

With improving methods of desalination, especially recently, the costs have dropped and will continue to drop, though the price of fuel and energy to create the pressure will continue to rise. Scarcity, coupled with increased demand and regulation have also caused the price of fresh water to rise. This increase in price has allowed desalination to become a viable competitor. This trend is also expected to continue. One way to counteract the cost and aesthetic issues is to place the desalination centers next to coastal power plants for cheap electricity. Another possible means of counteracting the energy problem would be to use nuclear power. In America, the current value is $2 billion and expected to grow to $70 billion in the next 20 years.

As appealing as an endless supply of water is, the important part of the political policy paradigm is that water is scarce and should remain that way, if people are to have sustainable habits. This is especially a problem, because as of yet, there is nowhere to dispose of the concentrated waste, a problem ignored by the proponents of desalination. The opposing argument is that using up fossil groundwater is an equally if not greater problem for the environment. However, groundwater can be replenished allowing some hope of sustainability, the leftover salts are a permanent form of pollution according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so policy would seem best if it employed a combination of technologies.

Currently, much of this waste is returned to the sea, destroying the marine life by raising salinity levels. Considering the industrial environment in which desalination technology would be found, emphasis should be place on waste reduction, as opposed to recycling. Further, desalination cannot help developing countries yet, those which are also most likely to be it first and hardest with water scarcity due to their agricultural nature. The hope is that solar energy, another extremely expensive and underdeveloped technology, can be used to create the necessary pressure to power this technology, with Southern nations benefitting from their abundance of sun. This would also prevent reliance on electricity and plutonium, an extremely difficult and controversial element to extract, requiring dependence on industrialized countries and terrorist safety checks. The solar energy combined with desalination is a somewhat sustainable solution, since there is still a problem with waste disposal.

Other technologies include biological applications, which create or use organisms to clean up water. The big problem is that a lot of water is lost to agriculture. Agricultural practices that use sprinklers that go straight to the source may prevent much of that which is lost to evaporation. A scientist at MIT has invented a UV water filter, which would work in developing countries where power grids are hard to come by. Inevitably the best technology to deal with water may be a universal birth control. The question will be whether that mind-set will win against the one that wages war, famine and mass dehydration.