Posts Tagged ‘drinking water’

Keeping the (Water) Glass Half Full

Friday, August 13th, 2010

drinking water

If you’re like most of us, you probably take it for granted that tomorrow morning you’ll get up and take a hot shower. And you’ll head to Starbucks (or your coffee shop of choice) for your morning brew. You also might throw a quick load of laundry in the washer or hose down your dusty car.

And if you’re like most of us, you probably won’t think twice about the amount of water that all of these routine activities require. Even more surprising, the water you actually see in the shower, in your coffee cup or in your washing machine represents only a fraction of your use. Consider, for example, that producing a single sheet of paper requires about 2.5 gallons of water, while production of a day’s worth of food requires hundreds of gallons.

And though it may seem plentiful from our standpoint, fresh water is, in fact, in short supply throughout many areas of the world. Even certain areas of the United States, particularly in Florida and other areas of the South, as well as California, have dangerously low supplies of drinkable water at their disposal.

To help address these shortages, many governments and businesses are turning to a water treatment technology called desalination, in which salty sea water is transformed into fresh, clean drinkable water. In this week’s episode, Linda Correia of the Aquaria Water desalination facility in Massachusetts told us that this is a rapidly growing field with tremendous career opportunities. An article last October in Fortune magazine pointed out that there are currently 1,500 desalination facilities in the U.S., and that the $30 billion industry is expected to double in capacity by 2016.

Here are some more facts about this thirst-quenching technology:

*Saline water is defined as water that contains a significant amount of dissolved salt. Measurements are expressed in “parts per million,” with fresh water containing less than 1,000 ppm while ocean water contains about 35,000 ppm of salt.

*Desalination is actually an ancient science — civilizations have used this water treatment process to convert sea water to drinking water aboard their ships

*There are two main ways to desalinate water: The first is called thermal technology (or distillation) and involves turning water into steam and leaving the salt behind. This method is effective but it’s also expensive, both in dollars and in energy usage. The second method is called reverse osmosis, which is a filtering process that’s cheaper — in both cost and energy expenditure. Check out this U.S. Geological Survey website to learn more about how how salt is removed from sea water.

*According to the International Desalination Association, the market continues to grow, with “more desalination plants with more capacity brought online during the past year than ever before.”

*What makes for a good job fit in this field? Aquaria Water’s Linda Correira told ATETV that she looks for employees who are analytical and detail-oriented, in addition to having a basic understanding of water treatment processes. And Water Treatment Technology student Mike Poitras pointed out that the field requires a lot of data collection, and some equipment maintenance (maintaining valves and pumps, for example).

*To learn more about educational opportunities in this field, you might start with these programs: Gateway Community College; Linn-Benton Community College; and Mountain Empire Community College and/or check in with your local community college to find out more about what is available near you.

Remember, fresh water will always be in demand. And evolving water treatment technologies such as desalination will help ensure that the glass stays half full.