World Water Day: Water Scarcity, Conservation and Tools

Yesterday was World Water day and I was remiss in commenting.  My stats are often lies or damn lies, but I’ve heard that 1% of the worlds water is drinkable.  .05% of the worlds water is locked up in ice caps, leaving .05% to drink. The US Census Board estimates that the world population in 2012 is 7.002 billion on the earth and growing.  Global industrialization is growing along and with it are consumption and pollution of water.  With these contending forces drinking water resource scarcity rises.  The human body can last roughly 3 days without water (some places much less).  Realistic solutions fall in the development of more efficient water systems, reducing water waste and pollution as well as inventive ways to access water like rainwater harvesting.

Research and Innovation:

Companies Developing Solutions

DIY

 

Its Elementary: A Simple Water Still

Solar stills that capture, purify and condense water are one of the most elegant systems I’ve seen for obtaining fresh water.  It is simple, passive, eco-friendly and leads one to wonder if such a simple design works for one of our most essential elements couldn’t similar design elegance work for other resource constraint problems?  For example: I believe and have heard others say that there is no energy shortage, just look up at the sun, what does exist is a shortage of technology that efficiently converts and stores energy for the masses.  In effect all energy resources we burn are inefficient transfer agents of stored energy that at one time came from the sun.  Think of it: coal (trees and plants grown from photosynthesis), oil (dinosaurs and plant material that either consumed plants or plant eating animals), wood…  The source of all energy is literally the sun which is simply nuclear energy at a safe distance.

But I digress.  Water is just as elemental as energy to our existence.  Without fresh H2O we will not survive and in a disaster zone water can be very scarce.  The controversy around water and wars fought over water rights are endless.  Suffice it to say the world is covered with it and we don’t have efficient safe mass production technology available to meet all the demands.

The solar still concept is not new.  I learned about the simple idea in a wilderness class I’d taken years ago.  The instructor indicated that it originated from the native Americans and they probably learned it from someone else.  I had been fascinated by the design and wondered if there is a way to optimize the design so it could be used for quick deployment in a disaster zone or to supply residential housing.  Simply combining it with an efficient cistern and aqueduct system might be enough to keep the needed supply at hand.

Now consider this, if a solar still can capture enough water in the desert, how much water can it capture in a non-desert climate?  If we get individuals to be less dependant on the public water supplies, they could be managed optimally to the quality of their output instead of quantity.  Everyone would benefit.

Now in a disaster zone, a device that could be rapidly deployed to produce sufficient quantities of potable water literally out of thin air would be a life saver in deed.

Please comment.

See article here

Disaster Relief: Portable Power and Water Purifier

Courtesy of Inhabitat

Inside a disaster zone, often the most basic infrastructure is lost (water, power, and the systems that depend on these resources).  A company by the name of Essential Element has created a vehicle that brings a solar power generator and water purification system into disaster stricken zones.

The vehicle, named the Hydra, uses solar power to generate electricity that can be used to power communication systems and other necessities.  It also has a water purification system that can produce clean water for victims in the disaster zone.  The water purifier can push up to 87,000 liters of clean water in a single day.

It would be interesting if this technology could be tailored to residential use where residences could purchase a small footprint pre-fab package that could simply be dropped and plugged into place to help reduce strain on public power and water utilities (purifying rain, lake or river water) as well as the resources they consume.  It would also be helpful if  the water purifier can perform full distillation so it can convert toxic or ocean salt water into safe water.

See article here

Getting Water from the Land and Sea

Being stranded at sea is a terrifying thought.  To say being without a raft,  shelter and water as your boat goes down reduces ones odds for survival considerably is an understatement.

The Sea Kettle design is a great idea.  I have heard to many stories of people getting stranded at sea, suffering from dehydration so badly that they are compelled to drink the sea water.  Their lives almost always end not long after taking this action.

Built into the Sea Kettle’s roof is a simple water purifying design that desalinates and purifies water.   It can provide water for up to 5 people per day.  It is a design worth considering when planning your survival kit for your boat.

See article here:

http://news.discovery.com/tech/life-raft-makes-seawater-drinkable.html

The concept for the Sea Kettle is built around a solar still which uses the sun’s energy to evaporate the sea water and distill it into pure drinking water.

The solar still can also be used on land.  I had taken a wilderness course where the instructor had talked about using a solar still to capture evaporated water from the ground in Death Valley.  He was able to collect enough water to comfortably sustain himself for his stay in the valley.

An example of a solar still can be found here:

Surrounded by Water and Dying of Thurst

Michael Pritchard demonstrating the portable Lifesaver filter

Access to safe drinking water is critical when stranded in a crisis situation or any environment for an indefinite period of time.    If in a situation where you only have access to polluted water, you need a means to convert the toxic water into drinkable water. 

A very clever solution for in-place water purification has been designed by inventor Michael Pritchard.  His invention turns filthy water into sterile drinking water.

See video here:  http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_pritchard_invents_a_water_filter.html

This purifier is worth considering when planning an individual emergency kit or large scale relief supplies.  We all know the importance of access to water in a crisis situation can mean the difference between life and death.  Michael presents a compelling case in his talk. 

Before adding to your kit, it is important to understand if a filter can safely desalinate water such as sea water and be sure to fully know the purifier’s limitations and complexity of use.  The simpler the better.