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Published on August 28th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans

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Water Conservation Models

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As
the water crisis becomes more evident in our lives each day, scientists
and corporations alike are investing resources in designing innovative
methods of conservation and ways to help alleviate the harshest effects
of this crisis worldwide.

Earlier in 2007, droughts in the remote
Marshall Islands near Guam impacted local populations so much that some
U.S. governmental and relief agencies supplied these areas with reverse
osmosis purification systems.  Many technologies aimed at reducing the
water crisis, especially for rural areas, are currently in use or still
in the development phase.  Here’s a brief overview of these various
water-tech innovations:

Desalination: Though costly and energy-intensive, this process
could prove considerably effective if a more efficient and
environmentally-friendly method, such as solar extraction, can be
employed.  Desalination is the purification of water (especially ocean
water) by removal of salt and other minerals, often producing table
salt in the process. Only complete extraction of salt renders the water
available for human consumption.  This is most popular in arid Middle
Eastern regions, though it’s gaining in prominence worldwide.   Many
ocean water desalination plants are paired with power plants, raising
considerable concern about the preservation of marine life.  The U.S.
has responded to these concerns by citing the Clean Air Act in banning
most of the cooperative desalination and power plant efforts, which
also result in substantial air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Living Machines: Now a trademarked name, these systems were
initially designed by John Todd in the 1960’s, with the goal of
producing clean water and biomass by passing sewage through a variety
of stages of an artificially-created micro-ecosystem. This design
relies on the filtration efforts of microorganisms, small invertebrates
(snails and even small fish), and plants, especially photosynthetic
plants and algae which intake solar energy to oxygenate the systems.
Though these systems were initially thought to be impractical for
production on mass city-wide scale due to their inability to process
some heavy chemicals that appear in our drains (such as toxins found in
paint) , smaller versions are used domestically in some European
countries in order to purify in-home wastewater.

LifeStraw: This drinking straw is used to filter bacteria that
causes disease and often results in fatality. The design was made
especially with rural, third-world regions without access to clean
drinking water in mind.  This cost-effective little wonder comes
equipped with filters which kill strains of E. coli, typhoid, cholera
and salmonella.  It is said to have a filtration lifespan of up to 700
liters of water per day.

Micro Hydro: In many remote and rural regions, micro hydro is
the new small-scale power currency.  These systems draw off of
water-created energy to generate electric power, and work well combined
with the efforts of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems.   One renowned
designer, Dean Kamen, has developed a “locally powered water
distillation system” which is still in the patent process.  A small
machine (currently powered by cow dung) produces electrical power while
supplying enough heat for the distillation and purification of
brackish, contaminated water.  While his creation was made to reduce
the incidence of disease-spreading water contaminants in rural areas,
Kamen hopes to market his design by simultaneously creating an
entrepreneurial niche in the communities in need of his product.
According to this model, one individual would operate the product and
sell the electricity, a second individual would collect dung and market
it to the electric provider, and a third would lease out appliances.
Clean water and a sustainable model for economic growth – it doesn’t
get much better than that!





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