Water: Clean & Plentiful
Meeting the water challenge is the biggest threat and the largest opportunity facing businesses today. Water affects our health and our prosperity, since over 40% of our water is used to create energy.
Water technologies go back to the Romans, who used clay filters to trap salt from seawater. Early Greek sailors boiled salt water, making potable water from the condensation. In 1770, Thomas Jefferson invented a method for desalination that was printed on the backs of newspapers distributed on ships so sailors could produce drinking water. In the US, after World War II, the government needed to find economical ways to increase the water supply during a water crisis. Congress passed a ‘Saline Water Act’ in 1952 to provide federal support for desalinating seawater.
Currently, in the Northeast the challenge is the price of clean water. Increasing storms overflow sewers, dumping raw sewage into rivers and lakes. Unregulated nutrients flowing into freshwater supplies are costly for municipalities charged with making our water potable. The parched Southwest has faced increasingly hot and dry summers, threatening livestock, agriculture and people. Cities and towns are regulating water use — how much, for what and when.
Throughout the United States, droughts of one to five or more years have caused Americans to learn to curb their water use. But when the drought ends, the lessons learned are lost. At 100 gallons per person per day, the US is the world leader in per capita water use. Should the growing economies of the world catch up with the US, we would need 3.5 times all the fresh water on the planet to meet that need. Some will come from the oceans, and some from conservation and recycling of existing water supplies. Already, the Middle East gets almost 50% of their water supply from the ocean, and are thirsty for more.
In this issue we look at the Northeast clean water and Southwest desalination opportunities. We feature companies that are inventing the future, along with the public private partnerships fueling this trillion dollar industry.