“Water, water, everywhere / Nor any drop to drink.”
—From “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Most of us learned in grade school that more than two-thirds of the earth is covered with water. That’s a lot of water! Unfortunately, more than 99 percent of it is too salty to drink or is frozen in glaciers and ice caps, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. I did some math, and it turns out that what’s left amounts to less than 1 percent. And we’re running out.
In the short run, conservation helps. But in the long run, there’s just one logical answer: desalination. I may be editorializing here, but I find the arguments against building desalination plants kind of short-sighted.
One argument is they’re super expensive to build, as much as $2.9 billion, and they require a lot of energy to operate. I don’t buy this excuse. Put Elon Musk in a room with a bunch of geeky engineers, and I’m sure they can figure out a way to produce enough hydroelectricity to make these suckers pencil out.
Another oft-cited negative is environmental impact. I get that this is a problem, but it’s a double-edged sword. Desalination reduces the use of water that comes from natural habitats that need protecting. But then there’s the byproduct: brine.
Where do we put it? Again, figure it out. Some smart entrepreneur can build houses out of salt bricks or something.
For way too long, our globe has been kicking the can down the road to oblivion. Without water, there is no us. It’s time to get crackin’ before we’re up a creek… without a creek.