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Is Desalination the Answer to Water Shortages?

With severe droughts affecting over 36 countries could the solution lie in the ocean?

The ocean makes up 70 percent of the earth’s surface and accounts for 96 percent of the water on the planet. The problem is, this water can’t be consumed. It’s oversaturated with salt.

Desalination is the process of turning salty ocean water into drinking water. So with 783 million people lacking access to clean water and more areas facing severe droughts, could desalination be the silver bullet?

The Middle East has been a leader in desalination so far. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Israel rely heavily on desalination as a source for clean water. Israel gets 40 percent of domestic water from desalination. These countries also have hardly any groundwater or fresh water sources so desalination is a case of innovation by necessity. These countries make up the one percent of the world currently relying on desalination to meet water needs. But the UN predicts that by 2025 14 percent of the world will rely on desalination to meet water needs. Read more

The story of water in Brazil

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This Tool Makes Water Appear Out of Thin Air

Zero Mass Water’s device allows people to generate their own drinking water — even in arid regions.

A start-up in Arizona has created an at-home water-generating technologythat could be a breath of fresh air for 844 million people who lack clean, safe drinking water around the world.

That’s because Zero Mass Water’s rooftop system, already serving a few families and businesses in Arizona and California, pulls water from the air — no matter the climate or humidity level.

“We want to guarantee access to safe drinking water for every person in the world and fundamentally change the human relationship to water,” Zero Mass Water founder Cody Friesen told Forbes. Read more

This Device Collects Water From the Clouds

On a dry, rocky slope of Mount Boutmezguida in southwest Morocco, a series of mesh billboards stand perched among the scrubby vegetation. Anchored with thick cables and framed with steel poles, they provide a life-giving element that people in many parts of the world take for granted: water.

Mesh billboards on the Moroccan mountainside will soon be joined by numerous others a planned 31 in all to create the world’s largest fog collection facility.

People living in regions where water is scarce spend hours each day tracking it down from sources that are often severely contaminated. UN-Water, the United Nations’ water agency, estimates that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be impacted by water scarcity a similar number of people currently rely on water that is faecally contaminated. And this reality disproportionately affects women, who in many regions are tasked with finding water; girls are pulled out of school to complete the job.

But despite the lack of rain in many coastal regions Chile, Eritrea, Morocco clouds of fog frequently shroud the landscape. And clouds mean water. Read more

How bats find water and why metal confuses them

A bat, flying through the night sky, is thirsty. As it flies, it sends out high-pitched squeaks and listens for the returning echoes. It hears a telltale pattern. It hears no echoes form up ahead and the only ones that reflect back at it are coming from straight below. That only happens when the bat flies over a flat, smooth surface like the top of a lake or pond. The bat dives, opens its mouth to take a sip of refreshing water… and gets a mouthful of metal.

In nature, bodies of water are the only large, smooth surfaces around. Waves of sound that hit the surface of still water would generally bounce away, except for those aimed straight downwards. Stefan Greif and Björn Siemers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have found that bats are instinctively tuned to find water using this unique feature (and yes, the institute does mostly, but not exclusively, bird research).

The man-made world is full of surfaces with the same properties, including metal, plastic and varnished wood. When Greif and Siemers released bats over smooth plates made of these materials, the animals tried to drink from them. If the plates were textured with small ridges, the bats ignored them. This instinct seems common to echolocating bats, for Greif and Siemers tested 15 different species with varied lifestyles and distantly related families. All of them did the same thing. Read more