What does the future of clean water look like as climate change continues? 

Everywhere is going to get hit by climate change, and everywhere is going to see more extreme weather. As precipitation patterns around the world get more and more extreme, the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold will increase, resulting in more storms and heavy rains, at the same as more droughts and dry spells. This means that as climate change continually increases -Thanks to us - The rate of floods and droughts is continually increasing. 

Over 2 Billion people already lack access to safe drinking water at home and by 2025 over half of the worlds population will reside in water-stressed areas. (Famiglietti, 2019)

How the worlds water supplies are changing. 

The map below was built using NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, measuring small changes in the gravitational field caused my large amounts of water moving. 

The various red areas are from regions that are quickly losing water, such as glaciers, mountain ranges  and Ice-sheets such as Greenland, Alaska & Patagonia in South America. 

Other red spots on the map come from the water we can't see: Groundwater. 

Over half of the worlds major aquifers are being used faster than they can be replenished. These can be found on every continent other than Antartica. The water from these Aquifers is primarily being used for irrigation in agriculture, which means that a water shortage will also lead to a food crisis.

The blue spots on the map are areas that are now prone to severe flooding, which will cause major loss of life and damages as well. 

(Famiglietti, 2019)

Now that I have shared some information on the situation with water on this planet as it is today. I'd like to share what can be done to help it. 

Water solutions

We currently have the technology already to turn salt water into fresh water through desalination. There are currently ~ 300Million people around the world that rely on desalinated water for some or all of their daily needs. (Cross, 2016). Despite this, desalinated water accounts for only 1% of the worlds freshwater. (Fountain, 2019)

Largely this is due to the fact that desalination plants are energy intensive and expensive. A good example is Saudi Arabia, where over half of the country relies on desalinated water.

In 2009, the Saudi minister for water and electricity estimates that 25% of all the oil and gas produced in the country went towards production of freshwater and electricity. As well standard desalination processes release toxic brine that comes from the salt and purifying chemicals to clean the water, which has severe environmental impacts. (Not even mentioning the impact that powering it all with fossil fuels has) 

All hope is not lost though, there are technologies being developed to do a better job. 

The Dutch company Desolinator is using purely solar energy to power their thermal desalination plant which can produce 250’000L of clean water daily for each of it’s units at a cost of 1USD$/1000L. Their method also does not produce any toxic brine and is fully cyclical and sustainable meaning it can clean wastewater as well. They use their own patented solar panels that capture both electrical energy and thermal energy from the sun to power everything 24/7. 

The company RainMaker is making clean water from the air. They do this by blowing air with a fan through a heat exchanger, cooling down the air past the Dew Point and collecting the condensation as water. This is also sustainable and can run off only renewable energies, but unfortunately RainMaker is not a public company yet. 

There are other methods to clean water that humans have been using for thousands of years including filtration using sand & rocks to filter out unwanted particles. 

Another effective way to clean water is by using Oysters!

Oysters have a natural filtration process and can filter up to 150 Liters of water a day per Oyster!

The One Billion Oyster project is aiming to clean up all of New Yorks’ waterways before 2035 by placing 1 Billion Oysters in New Yorks' waterways! 

My thoughts

This worlds water security seems well... bleak. 

It doesn't help to hear that water scarcity is only predicted to get worse. 

Albeit this, we have solutions, we have the ability to tap into a virtually limitless supply of water from the sea thanks to technology. Water is and will forever be a renewable resource, that we can reuse continually. 

Theres a big gap unfortunately between the technology and the implementation of these solutions. We have the ability to save millions of lives, even RIGHT NOW, and yet, we fall short. Money and Politics prevent those who need aid the most from receiving it on the daily. 

Water scarcity is only going to get worse as climate change continues. Nations and states around the world need to be implementing water solutions BEFORE they are needed, because otherwise when the time comes that they are needed, it will be too late. 

Nations, U. (2022). Water – at the center of the climate crisis | United Nations. United Nations; United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/climate-issues/water
‌Famiglietti, J. (2019, March 3). A Map of the Future of Water. Pewtrusts.org; The Pew Charitable Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/trend/archive/spring-2019/a-map-of-the-future-of-water
‌Rainmaker Air-to-Water Technologies | Rainmaker Worldwide. (2020, May 21). Rainmaker Worldwide. https://rainmakerww.com/technology-air-to-water/
‌Dempsey, C. (2021, October 18). Water on Earth. Geography Realm. https://www.geographyrealm.com/water-earth/
‌Water Use Statistics - Worldometer. (2014). Worldometers.info. https://www.worldometers.info/water/
Cross, K. (2016). What role for desalination in the new water paradigm. International Water Association. https://iwa-network.org/news/what-role-for-desalination-in-the-new-water-paradigm/#:~:text=More%20than%20300%20million%20people,water%20is%20produced%20per%20day.
The World Can Make More Water From the Sea, but at What Cost? (Published 2019). (2023). The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/22/climate/desalination-water-climate-change.html#:~:text=Despite%20a%20practically%20limitless%20supply,of%20the%20world's%20fresh%20water.
‌UpLink. (2023). Weforum.org. https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-contribution/a012o00001pUsUyAAK/desolenator-sustainably-disrupting-the-foodwaterenergy-nexus?activeTab=Contribution-Details