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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/6/15

Reversing the World's Worsening Water Woes!

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For the foreseeable future, the World is facing a set of worsening water woes! The recent restrictions on water usage throughout the entire State of California, with its thirty million people, are only one of the opening phases of those water woes, which are indeed inevitable, and are already here. While world population, industry, and commerce have grown immensely and are likely to continue to do so, the world's supply of potable (drinkable) water is much the same as it was centuries ago. As an economist, I learned in my first courses that a widening imbalance between inadequate supply and growing demand tends to lead only to worsening shortages and much higher prices. Further, in the case of water, such shortages will become intolerable, vastly exacerbating international strife, so that Water Woes are very likely to become Water Wars.

Yet, all is not gloom-and-doom; not only are there solutions to our Water Woes, the outline of some of those solutions already exists, and has even begun to be implemented. I am not referring to such "visionary" projects as mining ice asteroids for water, or even moving them closer to the earth as "reservoirs in space." As an economist, I cannot find those types of solutions to be cost-effective, or even viable for the present. Still, the earth is a "water world" whose surface is largely liquid, with only occasional continents and islands to break up the monotony. We do not have any shortage of water en toto -- only a shortage of potable, drinkable, usable water. We already know how to cure that.
The Israelis, in particular, have researched and implemented the conversion of salt water to fresh and usable water for many decades. Other "dry" nations have followed suit. Wikipedia offers some background information on the process:
"Desalination, desalinization, and desalinisation refer to any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water. Salt water is desalinated to produce fresh water suitable for human consumption or irrigation. Desalination is used on many seagoing ships and submarines. Most of the modern interest in desalination is focused on developing cost-effective ways of providing fresh water for human use. Along with recycled waste-water, this is one of the few rainfall-independent water sources.

"Due to relatively high energy consumption, the costs of desalinating sea water are generally higher than the alternatives (fresh water from rivers or groundwater, water recycling and water conservation), but alternatives are not always available and rapid overdraw and depletion of reserves is a critical problem worldwide. Quoting Christopher Gasson of Global Water Intelligence, At the moment, around 1% of the world's population are dependent on desalinated water to meet their daily needs, but by 2025, the UN expects 14% of the world's population to be encountering water scarcity. Unless people get radically better at water conservation, the desalination industry has a very strong future indeed.

"Desalination is particularly relevant to dry countries such as Australia. The single largest desalination project is Ras Al Khair in Saudi Arabia, which produces 1,025,000 cubic meters per day in 2014. The largest percent of desalinated water used in any country is in Israel, which produces 40% of its domestic water use from seawater desalination." (end of Wikipedia excerpt)

What is needed, then, is for Israel in particular to share fully and freely its advanced water desalination technology with the world. This would not only prevent the need for water-poor nations to have to "reinvent the desalination wheel" for themselves -- it would provide a much more positive role for Israel than has been the case for some years. Higher water costs from desalination have always been the Achilles Heel of the process, and although that differential is narrowing as natural water supplies "dry up," it is the Israelis who have come closest to affordable desalination. Now, they need to share their advanced techniques with the world, while expanding advanced research.

If Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who pulled out all the stops to win his recent re-election, is serious about making Israel a positive force in the world once again, here is his best opportunity to do so. Should Bibi fail to seize this opportunity, Israel will lose not only the vast enhancement of its positive role in world affairs -- Israel will also fail the ancient Biblical requirement that it be "a light unto the nations." And the world may well miss the best opportunity to solve its Water Woes -- an opportunity which may not come again. We must not let Water Woes turn into Water Wars; here is a way out!

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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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