Connections – May 2017

Just like any other living thing on the planet, humans rely on the resources around them to provide everything that is necessary to live. In some places, it is harder to get these resources than others. One of the most difficult resources to acquire for many people is clean water. For example, although it borders the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is a desert. In a year, the country might get around 537 millimeters of rain. That is only about 21 inches of rain for an entire year, which means that getting clean water for daily activities like drinking, cooking, bathing and farming is difficult and can be expensive. So, the Israeli government started desalinating water from the sea. Desalination is a process that extracts minerals from saline (salty) water. Using desalination means the people in Israel will not need rain to have fresh, clean water.

  • This is usually done in large facilities that can produce 627,000 cubic meters of water a day. That’s 165,635,877 gallons of water – each day!
  • These facilities produce 20 percent of the water for households in Israel.
  • Many submarines and ships use desalination, but only 1 percent of the people in the world rely on it for fresh water.
  • The U.N. thinks that by 2025, 14 percent of the world will rely on desalination.
  • It cost the Israeli government $500 million to make the four desalinization plants it currently uses.
  • Specialists think that soon Israel will use desalination for 50 percent of its water.
  • The process used to take the salt and other minerals out of the water is called reverse osmosis or RO.

  • Pipes with special membranes keep the salt behind and push fresh water through.

These technologies being used to generate clean water are important. Submarines and ships have used similar techniques to turn seawater into drinking water for years, but they didn’t need to change large amounts of water. For many years, people thought that it would be too expensive to use these technologies to provide water for large amounts of people. Israel is proving that it doesn’t have to be expensive to turn ocean water into drinking water. This technology has the potential to help many other nations that don’t have access to a lot of rainwater but do have access to the ocean. It could also be useful to countries if they could sell water to their neighbors who may not have access to the ocean. Australia and Singapore are just two examples of countries starting to use this same technology.

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