Solid Facts About Water
The latest panic mongering is about vanishing water. “Future wars will be fought over water”claims a news headline.
The science and technology has successfully tackled food shortage, a problem till 1980. It, therefore, exited our minds. Its space has since been occupied by the imaginary, impending water shortage, water wars, deaths from dehydration etc.
If we recollect the law of thermodynamics, the fundamental principle is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another. The total energy of an isolated system is constant. Albert Einstein’s museum in Bern, Switzerland has an excellent audiovisual explaining this observed fact.
When we read/hear about water shortage, we must consciously realize that the real issue not shortage of water in the earth, but shortage of usable water in a particular location or time. Water is a renewable resource.
I read this piece from the net: “ Water was perhaps formed in the space- in gas clouds- and delivered to the earth when it was formed billions of years ago. No water is being created on the earth nor is being destroyed… the earth has neither gained single liter of water nor has lost one…it remains constant…. Besides the whole debate about reusing water sounds silly because the nature recycles water continually…the glass of water that we drink today could have once been a portion of dinosaur’s pee!
Fresh water becomes seawater and vice versa.
Of the water present in the planet earth, the really usable portion represents about 1% of the total. This itself is huge in terms of volume. About 97% is salt water and 2% in polar ice
“The total amount of rains falling on land surface across the globe remain relatively constant in each decade”categorically observes the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, UK. Of course, the distribution of rainfall varies.
Producing water from sea water:,
We traditionally draw water for our use from the surface and sub surface water sources. In the last 1-2 decades, many countries and cities have started producing potable water from the sea water through desalination. Mega desalination plants now operate in over 120 countries. The power consumption to desalinate water has steadily come down from 114 kWh/1000 gallons in 1979 to less than 14kWh/1000 gallons of produced fresh water. One US gallon is equal to 3.78 lit of water.
Technology continually improves the cost effectiveness of the Reverse Osmosis technology. The Middle East followed by North America and Europe lead in the installed capacity of desalination plants.
The largest desalination plant in South Asia is in Chennai.
India has over 7500 kms of coastal line. More cities and towns could consider installing desalination plants.
Producing water from thin air:
At any moment, the atmosphere carries 37.5 million billion gallons of water in invisible vapour phase. This promises to be an exciting source of drinking water. The right and inexpensive technologies and products are now available. The search term ” water harvesting from air” fetches over 43 million responses! I reproduce below one such response.
38 lit/day. Home >11000 lit/day.Village
Atmospheric Water Generators
When a resource is renewable -which water is- the human ingenuity produces innovative solutions to ensure its sustained availability. So no need to panic.
Finally, some useful data to burst a few useless myths.
India’s average annual rainfall is 1100 mm.
China’s annual rainfall is 650 mm i.e. about 40 % less than India.
However, China ranks number one in the world in agricultural production with an output of $1005 bn which is over 270% higher than India’s agricultural production of $367 bn. India ranks second in the world.
China ranks number one in the world in Industrial output with $4540 bn and India ranks a poor 12 with $ 495 bn.
It is application of science and technology – in agriculture and in industrial production- that works wonders in China. India must learn from China. Of course, China’s infrastructure is several thousand times better.
Latur (Maharashtra) is in the news for severe water shortage .Latur district’s average annual rainfall is 600 mm. Similar to that of China and is slightly less that that of the USA(715 mm).
In a country like India that receives annual rainfall of 1100 mm and is served by several perennial rivers, if the people water shortage the blame should go to poor governance, poor adoption of technologies and not to 12% deficient rains.