State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Blog (10) Converting Ocean water to Drinking Water

   Humans cannot drink saline water. But, saline water can be made into freshwater, which everyone needs everyday. The process is called desalination, and it is being used more and more around the world to provide people with needed freshwater.

   Desalination/Distillation is one of mankind's earliest forms of water treatment, and it is still a popular treatment solution throughout the world today. In ancient times, many civilizations used this process on their ships to convert sea water into drinking water. Today, desalination plants are used to convert sea water to drinking water on ships and in many arid regions of the world, and to treat water in other areas that is fouled by natural and unnatural contaminants. Distillation is perhaps the one water treatment technology that most completely reduces the widest range of drinking water contaminants.

   In nature, this basic process is responsible for the hydrologic cycle. The sun causes water to evaporate from surface sources such as lakes, oceans, and streams. The water vapor eventually comes in contact with cooler air, where it re-condenses to form dew or rain. This process can be imitated artificially, and more rapidly than in nature, using alternative sources of heating and cooling.

Some desalination facts

  • It is estimated that some 30% of the world’s irrigated areas suffers from salinity problems and remediation is seen to be very costly.
  • In 2002 there were about 12,500 desalination plants around the world in 120 countries. They produce some 14 million m3/day of freshwater, which is less than 1% of total world consumption.
  • The most important users of desalinated water are in the Middle East, (mainly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain), which uses about 70% of worldwide capacity; and in North Africa (mainly Libya and Algeria), which uses about 6% of worldwide capacity.
  • Among industrialized countries, the United States is one of the most important users of desalinated water (6.5%), specially in California and parts of Florida.

 

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/drinkseawater.html


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