As the Earth’s climate continues to evolve, the global community confronts escalating temperatures and a surge in both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters worldwide — from intensified storms and floods to rampant wildfires and prolonged droughts. These catastrophic events have the potential to unleash havoc on critical systems essential for our survival, particularly the aging infrastructure responsible for our water supplies.
In the face of natural disasters or man-made catastrophes, such as the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, the discussion explored the potential of water desalination and purification technologies to mitigate the impact of contaminated water sources.
How can we effectively mitigate the adverse effects of both natural and man-made disasters on our water supplies and delivery systems? Is it feasible to leverage advanced water treatment technologies in such challenging scenarios?
NAWI Executive Director Dr. Peter Fiske recently spoke with Jeanne Destro with WAKR Radio for an episode of This Week in Tech to answer these questions. This Week in Tech is a radio show dedicated to exploring the latest advancements in technology designed to tackle the challenges facing the intersection of water, climate change, and pollution. Fiske discussed ways that NAWI is converting unconventional water sources into secure, desalinated water supplies at a cost equivalent to other available water sources. In so doing, NAWI’s research and development efforts are improving disaster risk reduction and response, socially inclusive environmental sustainability, and public safety and health.
Desalination is the process of removing salt from water. A substantial amount of chemical energy is required to effectively separate the salt molecules from their aquatic counterparts. Our desalination technologies are traditionally tailored for the task of purifying seawater, which has a high saline content. These desalination systems, often colossal structures strategically positioned along coastlines, draw in seawater, separate out the salt, and then release roughly fifty percent of the resulting liquid back into the ocean. This discharged liquid — called brine — carries twice the concentration of salt. If the desalination facility is located next to the ocean, bring can be safely integrated back into the seawater without harming marine life.
“In the United States we have people living all over the country, including all across Ohio. And when we think about desalination in the United States, we can’t just think about ocean water, we have to think about other places within the United States where there is salty water which we could use — but we don’t have the right technologies for it,” said Fiske. “In the inland United States, including Texas, New Mexico, and inland California, we do a lot of desalination of what is called brackish groundwater. This is water that is not nearly as salty as seawater, it is naturally occuring, it is in the ground, but it is too salty to use.”
Beyond the global challenge of water scarcity, Fiske spotlighted innovative solutions pursued by Fontus Blue, an Akron-based clean water technology company where he serves as a consultant. Amidst the escalating demand for water, Fontus Blue endeavors to explore unconventional avenues to source, treat, and reclaim water previously dismissed as undrinkable.
For those keen on understanding the intersection of technology, water, and sustainability, the full podcast and interview with Dr. Peter Fiske are available for listening. This enlightening conversation transcends local water rate concerns, urging listeners to contemplate the broader implications of water access, climate change, and the imperative for innovative solutions in safeguarding this precious resource. Listen to the interview and podcast.