Facing the Freshwater Crisis

As demand for freshwater soars, planetary supplies are becoming unpredictable. Existing technologies could avert a global water crisis, but they must be implemented soon
1 of 6

6. Exploit Advanced Desalination Technology

Ninety-seven percent of the world's water is salty. New lower-cost desalination plants could expand freshwater supplies for coastal population centers. Essentially, pressure is applied to salty water (left) so that water molecules within it pass through a selective membrane, yielding freshwater on the other side (right).....[ More ]

5. Adopt Low-Water Sanitation

Urban and suburban sanitation services soak up plenty of water, some 100 cubic kilometers worldwide. Low-water-use toilets could make a big dent. Residents of the Gebers Housing Project in suburban Stockholm are demonstrating a system that operates like a garden composter.....[ More ]

4. Ship "Virtual Water"

Virtual water is the amount of water that is used to produce food or another product and is thus essentially embedded in the item. A kilogram of wheat, for instance, takes about 1,000 liters of water to make, so each kilogram "contains" that quantity.....[ More ]

3. Water Investment Needs, by Area

Maintenance of the water infrastructure is crucial to prevent deterioration, leaks and outright breaches. At the same time, growing populations and those becoming more affluent need new, efficient water-delivery systems.....[ More ]

2. Charge More for Water

Freshwater in the U.S. and other economic powers has traditionally been priced so low that users have had little incentive to save it. Few people take the time to conserve a commodity that seems almost free--no matter how valuable.....[ More ]

1. Conserve Irrigation Water

Farm irrigation eats up huge quantities of water; a 10 percent drop in irrigation water would save more than is used by all other consumers. Plugging leaks in the irrigation water-delivery system, banking water underground to limit evaporation, applying drip-irrigation methods and modifying crops to withstand less moisture could do the trick.....[ More ]

risk free title graphic

YES! Send me a free issue of Scientific American with no obligation to continue the subscription. If I like it, I will be billed for the one-year subscription.

cover image Subscribe Now
Share this Article:

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article