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Using desalination to solve our water woes

November 08, 2011

Using desalination to solve our water woes

A recent public hearing in Santa Cruz, California’s largest city, about desalination brought a controversial topic to the fore once more. On one hand the proposed plant is a boon, replenishing possibly dwindling freshwater resources for around 150,000 people. On the other side, though, the proposed price tag of over $100 million makes the project a potential bust.

If you think the wars fought around the world over oil have been bad enough, you may have not seen anything yet. Just wait until water becomes really scarce.

Considering that around 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and that over 97% of the Earth’s water is salt, you’d think we had a plentiful potential supply of fresh water...with a little tweaking.

Unfortunately, it’s the tweaking that’s the problem. That, and as the Santa Cruz hearing admirably demonstrates, the cost. There are around 15,000 desalination plants around the world at the present time, but together they produce less than 1% of our water use.
Desalination has historically proved and continues to prove today to be a tough nut to crack.

Early attempts at desalination centered around a cascading system of chambers in which salt water was boiled at ever-decreasing temperatures, essentially producing freshwater vapor from the salt water. In the 50s, the U.S. Government began investigating osmosis through permeable membranes—like the way the cells work in our body. First attempts had limited success, but the design of the membranes quickly improved and so have the results.

And that’s where we are today, with scientific advances—such as the advent of PVC pipes and fittings that has virtually eradicated the costs of replacing corroded pipes—at the same time improving the desalination process and reducing the cost of operation. While desalination as a total cure for our water woes seems still to be a bit of a stretch, it certainly seems as though it can be a vital tool in our water-management tool kit.

PVC Pipe Plus Drilling Products manufactures a wide variety of CPVC pipe and fittings to North American distributors, consultants, industrial, commercial and residential clients. For more information on the company’s products and services, contact PVC Pipe Plus Drilling Products today.
 

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