Global desalination capacity growing substantially, study finds


#1

The average annual water footprint of humanity from 1996 - 2005 was around 9 trillion cubic meters. Despite higher expenses of kWh per cubic centimeter, water desalination is increasing across the world.

List of top 10 desalinating countries, measured in cubic meters per day (as of 2013):

3 years ago, MIT discussed the high throughput of graphene membranes in desalination. The process is scaleable and has a filtration factor of 99%. ORNL recently claimed an even higher efficiency using cheaper methane-derived sheets of graphene.

This infograph claims that by 2016 Israel will reach 50% desalination-based water generation. They want to meet 50% of agricultural water demand with this technology by 2020. From that same source, Saudi Arabia wants all desalination plants to be powered by solar technology by 2019 themselves. Greece is developing geothermal desalination. The UK is pushing for widespread use of residential smart water meters to monitor pipe leaks and maximize sustainability. In California the largest desalination project in the western hemisphere is expected to reach completion by next year.

For the next few decades, capacity and demand will continue to compete neck and neck. A significant breakthrough is needed to keep up with growing populations and dwindling fossil aquifers. With water use dominated at 92% by agriculture (in many places with sub-par conservation practices), the integration of Soylent into the global market could reduce agricultural use by at least 15%. The water savings could be redistributed to industrial and consumer markets, ideally lowering prices for both users.


#2

Do you have a source or workings for that estimate?


#3

Rob’s blog contains a spreadsheet that estimates 50% reduction in water agriculturally using the formula’s ingredients (in 1.4). Assuming Soylent can reach a mass market of 30% of people, and assuming on average the customer consumes the product 50% of the time, you end up with roughly a 15% reduction on agricultural demands.

I’m terrible at math so if I’m wildly miscalculating or forgetting a bunch of other factors I’m open to criticism.


#4

Gotcha, thank you kindly.


#5

I want to filter my pee into drinking water, like in that one scene from Waterworld.


#6

Have you not seen Bill Gates’ poop-to-water machine? Looked like a cross between a whacky Willy Wonka device and steampunk. It looked comically unreal, but I have a feeling the richest guy on the planet probably wouldn’t invest in a pyramid scheme.


#7

I’m concerned about the impact of desalination brine.


#8

This is a small scale example, but in Arizona there was a report written up on brine disposal methods.

In the conclusion the city inspectors claimed: "A solution where the brine
is moved out of the Valley to a regional processing center may be cost effective if several cities cooperated in the endeavor."

The disposal methods are not currently the problem. They’re saying their biggest barrier is the willingness of surrounding infrastructure to work cooperatively. That makes global scaled brine management more likely, just because it’s hedging on a pre-existing technology.

There’s two IEEE publications I want to link to that were focusing on the environmental interaction of brine discharges (in the Arabian Gulf), but they’re behind a paywall and the abstract is pretty… abstract. This study suggested a network of off-shore smaller facilities, which would have less impact in terms of pollution. A lot of energy losses could be prevented if supply chain models were more elaborate, which by proxy would lower environmental burden.


#9

Apparently ocean water can be used to produce high quality, mineral rich salt. Presumably brine would be an even better source due to the higher salinity:


#10

There’s also an estimated 20 million tons of gold (we’ve currently mined about .15 million tons) and roughly 16 trillion dollars worth of platinum in the ocean.

I want to drain the world’s oceans, get all the good stuff out of the water, filter out the bad, and then store it all underground.

It would only take a few thousand years.


#11

I think the gold/platinum and other minerals in the ocean are serving some purpose (for the ocean).


#12

Mosquitos also serve a purpose, but you don’t see any ecologists running to their rescue in the midst of a species wide genocide. It’s all about cost benefit analysis. Some species might die out, but that’s of little consequence when you think about all the devices we could build with these metals.


#13

Well if it serves a purpose for the ocean, doesnt it also serve a purpose for us? Ecological destruction (beyond a point) can also become economically lossfull for us humans.


#14

We don’t live in the ocean. More importantly, we are getting better at building synthetic organisms and machines that can do nature’s human-beneficial jobs better. Most species today are just pests. We eat only a select few of them, species which we could just as easily domesticate and breed under more controlled conditions.

The ecosystem has one purpose - to serve humans. If it can’t, it needs to be reconfigured to do so, even if that means widespread destruction.


#15

Every species in the world(including ocean) is being useful to us. And we (humanity ) have yet to reach a scale where we can engineer every possible ecosystem to domesticate and breed all the species we eat.

Many fish that we fish and eat from the ocean and the plants those fish eat thrive on minerals/metals from the ocean. So those metals could already be serving a purpose for us.


#16

Where we are now in terms of capability does pose a problem, but engineering the global ecosystem is far from impossible and almost inevitable. Once it is feasible, humans need to realize that they own the Earth and can do what they want to it. Leaving all these mineral and fuel riches in the ground and ocean would just be a waste. Even without being able to engineer the whole planet, there are still vast resources waiting for us out there that we refuse to touch for no reason other than to preserve the Earth’s “natural beauty”, whatever that means.

In terms of fish, aquaponics is well understood and can easily scale to feed many billions of people. That will almost certainly happen within our lifetime, therefore we need to start making of list of species we don’t want running amok when we have a steady stream of the ones we do like.

Personally, I think all insects should make the list.


#17

I am not saying we should not mine anything from the ocean, but mining everything from the ocean could bring unforseen consequences, which your first post implied that actually prompted me to respond.

Also i am not making these points out of concern for natural beauty.


#18

I agree that attempting this all in a day, in addition to being impossible, would be very bad for us. But the ultimate plan needs to involve picking off unruly species and domesticating the rest when we can assure our own ecological independence. Making the climate less extreme would make surveying easier, but that is likely not going to be possible in my lifetime. I also think the Earth’s various plates should be cemented in place so things stop drifting around and causing all kinds of destruction, in addition to making things harder to track. I admit that particular goal probably won’t be in reach for a long, long time. But it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead.


#19

I dont disgaree with this.

This i dont know.

Although i dont think this point is related to what we are talking, i will share what i think/know? if we do this. Tectonic plates drift around due to the inner magma in the earth that moves these plates. And the magma is moved around due to the earth’s spin. And these plates if cemented would cause a huge pressure buildup (earthquakes that are usually caused by plate movements actually release pressure from the core of the earth).


#20

Yeah, but I still can’t find farm-raised catfish that tastes anything like “real” catfish. :sob: