Without a doubt, water is the most superabundant resource on Earth. After all, it covers over 70% of the planet – yet despite this we are facing a looming crisis as a species.
Climate change, global conflict and overpopulation are just some of the factors that are devastating the water supply in many areas around the world. It means that two billion people – one-quarter of the human population – are without access to safe drinking water.
As the world’s population creeps ever closer to eight billion, attention is being focused on developing technologies that can help address this before it is too late.
One of those offering a potential solution is Michael Mirilashvili, head of Watergen, an Israel-based firm that is using its air-to-water technology to deliver the drinking water to remote areas of the world hit by conflict or climate change.
‘Basic human right’
“Water is a basic human right, and yet millions don’t have access to it,” he tells the Leakblast.com
Pulling water out of thin air may sound like science fiction, but the technology is actually simpler than it seems. The Earth’s atmosphere contains 13 billion tonnes of fresh water. Watergen’s machines work by filtering this water vapour out of the air. He says if used correctly, Watergen’s technology could spark a major shift within the water industry that could have a lasting impact on the planet.
“A big advantage of using atmospheric water is that there’s no need to build water transportation, so no worries about heavy metals in pipes for example or cleaning contaminated water from the ground or polluting the planet with plastic bottles.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than two billion people only have access to water that is contaminated with faeces. Just one sip puts them at risk of illnesses such as cholera and typhoid, and it estimates around 500,000 people a year die as a result.
When it comes to finding clean water there is a resource in our oceans. Icebergs contain some of the world’s purest water as the glaciers they come from formed thousands of years ago. The giant blocks of ice can be a hazard to shipping and can damage marine ecosystems with huge volumes of freshwater when they melt.
Harvesting them for profit first began in Canada, where it has become a big business along the country’s east coast. But the practice has now reached other parts of the world.
Entrepreneur and environmentalist, Abdulla Al-Shehi, is working with the United Arab Emirates’ iceberg project. Water scarcity poses a great risk in the country, as climate change brings with it rising temperatures to what is already one of the hottest places on the planet.
“On average a gigantic iceberg can provide a million people water for 3-5 years,” he claims. “So why not take advantage of what nature can offer us? I hope one day to bring icebergs to the Arabian Peninsula.”
Yet the journey poses risks. Due to their size icebergs can flip over in transit, causing fatal accidents. They must be also wrapped in specially designed insulated material to reduce the melting rate during the journey. It is no surprise that the process can therefore be expensive.
The UAE Iceberg project will start by harvesting a smaller iceberg and taking it to Perth in Western Australia or Cape Town in South Africa.
“The estimated cost ranges from $60-80m (£42-57m) and the full project will likely cost around $150-200m,” says Mr Al-Shehi.
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