One hallmark of economic growth is abundance of availability, or at least, the demand for availability. This is as true of consumer goods and better jobs as it is for food and better housing.
It’s also true for fresh water.
The demand for water grew six-fold during the 20th century. Some predictions chart a rise in demand of 40% over the next 20 years alone due to population and economic growth. This comes as fresh water supplies are decreasing.
I talked yesterday about the ongoing push to privatize water resources – ownership of water itself, as well as the delivery infrastructure.
The infographic below, which was produced by desalination company Energy Recovery for World Water Day, looks at water use, and the possible solution (already a reality in many Middle Eastern countries) of using desalination to meet water needs.
The infographic touches very briefly on major challenges for ‘desal’: The high energy cost of treating saltwater (mostly fossil-fuel based technology is used at this point, which might explain the popularity of the process in the Middle East) and the environmental impact (one major problem is the polluting waste outflow of concentrated brine that can be lethal to marine environments).
One other concern I might add is that if (or more likely: when) desalination becomes an indispensable method for obtaining fresh water, then fresh water will be less seen as a natural resource that should be a human right – it will be a processed product subject to market value.
Maybe one of the future hallmarks of economic abundance will be the ability to turn brine to fresh water. For the moment, reducing our water footprint may be the best approach.