(Article changed on May 22, 2013 at 20:51)
waterpump by Teliesin
You can tell a lot about a society's fears by who the bad guys are in their movies. When I was a kid in the 80's, all the bad guys in our movies were Russians. After the Cold War ended, the bad guys became Middle Eastern terrorists. So the bad guy in a recent James Bond film caught my eye. He was some European looking fellow who was part of a secret international organization trying to take over a poor country's water supply. This may sound like a silly plot theme to some, but it made me think of the tale of American billionaire oil tycoon - T. Boone Pickens.
Pickens made his money in oil, so many were surprised back
in the mid 1980's when he started buying land in Roberts County, Texas near one
of the largest deposits of fresh water in the world, The Ogallala Aquifer. By
doing so, he acquired the "water rights" of the adjacent water. Or, he "owned"
the water. The state of
Pickens said that "water is the new oil," and until recently
he owned more fresh water than anyone else in
He says in an interview that he had tried to sell it for
years to the bigger cities of
By the way, he didn't sell the water connected to his estate, and it's a lot of water.
But, had the big cities of
Right now, it is easy for us to ignore this problem. To most
of us in the "developed" world, it seems we have plenty of fresh water. We take
long showers and baths with it, water our lawns, wash our cars, and even just
flush it down our toilets. But back in 2010 The UN Summit on Climate Change
predicted that 33% of the world was already facing a fresh water crisis, and by
2050, that number would rise to over 60%. The problem is, much like the people
T. Boone Pickens says there is plenty of water to be had. He says there are 350 Billion Trillion gallons of water on earth. But, 96% of it is salt water - that made me ask myself,
"Can't we just remove the salt from the water?"
Turns out we can. It is a process called "Desalination."
It isn't a new procedure. Early sailors used a technique to provide themselves with drinking water on long voyages. It happens naturally in nature, the sun evaporates the water, leaving the salts, and then that water eventually becomes fresh water rain. Countries all over the world are already using Desalination plants. The salt water is heated, and as the water turns to steam, the salt is separated. Then the steam condenses, is purified, and then drinkable.
When I read this, I remembered that water is often used in power plants. In much the same process, fresh water is heated and turned to steam, and that steam turns a turbine, creating energy. I found that roughly 75 to 90 percent of the world's energy is produced by steam turbines, depending on the source. And I thought,
"Couldn't we use this steam created by desalination to actually power the process itself?"
It seems to me, and mind you, my college degree is in Acting, not Engineering, if we used an outside energy source to heat the salt water and start the process of turning the salt water to steam, we could then use the resulting steam as a self-sustaining energy source to power the Desalination plant. Once the salt water is heated to steam, that steam could turn a turbine. Then the energy created by turning that turbine could be used to heat more salt water. In my mind we could make fresh water from salt water with almost no extra energy cost, maybe even with some energy left over.