back to article US Navy boffins put an end to drought

Backroom lab boys in the US Navy say they have developed hugely more efficient desalination machinery, ideal for making seawater drinkable. The new tech, as well as saving space and energy aboard US warships, could also bring relief to water-poor areas around the world. "They say that water is the next petroleum," comments J …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. handle
    Thumb Down

    Yes but how does it work?

    Rather a disappointing article really, as you missed out the most interesting bit.

    At least desalination plants can be effectively powered by sunlight as the problem that they'll only work half the time is easily solved by something as simple as a water tank.

  2. DT

    shurely not

    Do my eyes deceive me; or is El Reg finally admitting that we might have a looming energy crisis? Too busy focusing on the MMGW distraction to miss the major issue of energy crunch?

    Hmm, can't think *why* provision for droughts is being ramped up, any suggestions Lewis?

    Even with the juice, it's naive to think this tech. solution is a cure all. The main factors affecting starving/thirsty/malnourished countries are still the same things they've always been; money and political will.

  3. Christoph
    Thumb Up

    Could be a good idea

    Useful in desert areas (assuming near the sea) without pumping out CO2. Lots of sunshine for the energy, and no need for continuous power - water is easy to store.

  4. Brian Miller

    Fresh water? Rain water is squandered

    There is a lot of rain water coming down that is simply let go. In Seattle, the government "owns" all the rain. Seriously, it is the law here. (could be a county ordinance, not sure) Anyways, if you catch rain water, doing so is illegal, and all due punishment will apply.

    Fact is, two fellows with sponges can collect enough dew in a morning to fill a 30-gallon bin. What happens to the dew each morning? It evaporates, of course. So there is a lot of moisture that can be had without resorting to processing sea water.

  5. tantiboh

    Score one for imperialism

    All hail the evil, dastardly, warmongering U.S. military!

  6. john 154

    I mean...

    screw the co2, I need a drink....

    but seriously SCREW THE CO2........if I'm on the titanic I might as well go first class.......the elephant in the room ? wayaaaayyy too many people on the 'ship'....

  7. Disco-Legend-Zeke
    Paris Hilton

    Solar Distillation

    Small solar stills are being used even where drinking water is available. For example in refilling engine cooling systems, labs, etc.

    A small unit, in the western US can purify 5 gallons per day with only tiny amounts of electricity (for flushing valve and optional fan.)

    In addition to commercially built units, it's pretty easy to make one from scratch... a tub, preferably black, an enclosure of wood, metal, or plastic, a slanted piece of glass, and a trough to catch the condensate as it rolls down the glass.

    Paris just bacause.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wow: stop press. On a world covered with ocean, desalination may be a way to get fresh water where the population has too many folk/industry to supply from the rainfall.

    Energy crisis is a different problem. Can't expect not to refuse to alleviate one problem simply because you've not yet solved the other yet.

  9. Elmer Phud
    Thumb Up

    Tide's in

    If, as we are told, the sea levels get higher then the salt water will come to the people.

    Could be an issue wth those already living on large flood plains but, hey, if it means we can cut down more rain forest . . .

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Lewis, have you read Wikileaks today?

    The report your July wind power article was about wasn't the full monty:,_Poyry,_1_May_2009

  11. frank ly
    Thumb Up

    @ Brian Miller re. Fresh Water? ....

    Does dew form on Astroturf? I'm wondering if an automated dew collector would work, Astroturf-like structure, timed mechanical get the idea?

  12. kaiserb_uk

    Do you realise what this means?

    "We'll have as much salt as we could ever need!"

    /top secret

  13. Random Coolzip

    Grossly misleading

    A drought is more commonly associated with crop failures and mass starvation / exodus. Providing drinking water to people in the desert, while laudable, still doesn't mitigate the fact that they can't grow enough food to feed themselves.

  14. Muscleguy Silver badge


    For a tech site the lack of detail on the mechanism(s) of the new unit are rather disappointing. Go on, tell us how it works? While you are at it a solution for the tiny problem of disposing of the concentrated brine produced from both RO and distillation plants would be nice. You see pumping lots of it back into the sea is not good for the marine life and you have to do it a long way from the inlet pipe.

  15. JRallo

    Nuclear Reactors anyone?

    A lot of reactors have to be near a body of water (or use huge cooling towers, but we'll ignore those..) So why not use the by product, of the by product to generate fresh water (already heated water that needs to be cooled)? I know of a couple of instances where the water is pumped from the ocean, run through a heat exchanger, picks up heat and is pumped back out to sea... Why not take the extremely hot steam coming out of the generator to boil some water (thus cooling the generating water) and using that for drinking? Send the higher salinity back out with the other cooling water... Seems like a no brainier to me...

    Patent Pending.

  16. Adam Foxton
    WTF? crisis?

    But we've got enough Nuclear to last a few thousand years with modern tech...

    We've now got no fresh water problem and no energy crisis. We can even synthesise hydrocarbon based fuels in surprisingly large quantities- instantly ridding us of the problems of hydrogen production, transport, storage and upgrading the huge numbers of existing cars.

    We have the prototypes of tech that would get us to Mars in a month and the asteroid belt in probably another month.

    We have EHD tech that's just a decent power supply away from having us flying about with no moving parts.

    We can produce bio-compatible parts to replace a huge number of lost or damaged bodyparts.

    We can grow plants- food, "recreational" plants, all sorts of things- without vast amounts of water or even soil.

    Stopping the possibly-rising tides is, I'd imagine, a problem well within our capabilities as a race to solve.

    To paraphrase Peter Griffin- "Why aren't we using this?"

    @DT well, because they need more water on aircraft carriers. It means they can last longer. Plus it's useful all over the world and is literally a billion dollar idea.

  17. Adrian Esdaile

    So if water is the new petroleum....

    If your reverse osmosis (it tastes horrid, by the way) is powered by wind, solar, hydro, hamster wheels or nuclear you're ok.

    However if you are on a diesel-powered vessel you are effectively turning diesel (petroleum) into 'new petroleum' (water).

    If we could extend this analogy to something easier to grasp, say, beer; this would be similar to a pint of lager costing you 1.5 pints of lager in exchange.

    Bargain! So if water is the new petroleum, can beer be the new water?

  18. Neoc

    Re: Fresh water? Rain water is squandered

    Brian Miller @14:44 "There is a lot of rain water coming down that is simply let go. In Seattle, the government "owns" all the rain. Seriously, it is the law here. (could be a county ordinance, not sure) Anyways, if you catch rain water, doing so is illegal, and all due punishment will apply."

    We've got the reverse problem down here - after years of telling us water tanks were a bad idea in the city, the Brisbane City Council now mandates that any new houses *must* include a rain-catchment tank. ^_^ Some of the products that came out of the woodwork were... ingenious. I particularly like the smallish tanks designed to be set in series as part of a house's floating slab. Great for small plots.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    UK water shortages.

    Are mostly down to 2 things.

    The only survey done of UK water resources in the UK (done in the mid 1970s around the time of the drought) showed there is a lot of water but mostly in Wales. however there was no nationwide distributions network. And 30 years later there still isn't.

    Secondly UK water companies would rather build a reservoir (its a capital asset. Who cares it'll take years) than fix or replace the pipes (which was one of the major excuses for selling them onff in the first place. This is why Thames Water or their German parent would rather loose as much water per household as they supply to that household.

    The UK needs Ofwat to grow a set and start hitting them in their wallets.

    As for this tech. It's not really possible to say if this is an incremental improvement, upgrading fairly old systems, or this is a step change with new materials that simply did not exist earlier. That would be a very significant change.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    despite initial opposition from former Mayor Ken Livingstone

    yeah, because less carbon dioxide is WAY more important than potable water. what a freaking idiot.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: @ Brian Miller re. Fresh Water? .... #

    Why go high tech when low tech will do?:

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seattle? Get your facts right before spreading myths..

  23. Asgard

    Access to sea water is easy...

    "at least that substantial majority of the human race which lives within reasonable reach of saltwater."

    I wouldn't worry about that, because as Global Warming continues to increase, in the decades to come, we will all have far more access to sea water. The way its going, I'm hoping for some gene therapy to give me gills.

  24. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I'd guess it's the membrane

    to got RO to work you have to have a pretty high pressure on the salty side of the membrane. Improve the membrane efficiency by a small amount and you can cut the pressure on the pumps. Pressure is the main determinent of pump motor size, and hence power use. Cut the pressure and you can have the same flow for less energy.

    @ John Smith:

    "Secondly UK water companies would rather build a reservoir (its a capital asset. Who cares it'll take years) than fix or replace the pipes (which was one of the major excuses for selling them onff in the first place. This is why Thames Water or their German parent would rather loose as much water per household as they supply to that household."

    Actually, I believe it's a third, not half their water that Thames are losing. They aren't doing enough, but then you can't make up for half a century's lack of investment in just 15 years.

    Also, unless they dig up half of London, they're still developing the new technology needed to re-line pipes from underground. I've worked on jobs where sewers and mains pipes aren't mapped, they're so old. So they'll have to he found, before they can be fixed. It may end up much cheaper not to bother...

  25. walterp

    Rain water in Seattle, Washington owned by the state

    Brian Miller is correct, in the the State of Washington (where Seattle is located), the state government considers rainwater to the be a water of the state and public resource. Its use requires a water right permit (See RCW 43.27A.020).

    The reason that the Anonymous Coward saw the Seattle Website about rainfall catchments was because the Washington State Department of Ecology (which has the regulatory authority) has not required permits for "de minimis" use.

    See, which basically explains that if you rainwater catchment can be shown to reduce the 'Water Rights" of someone else that was the rainfall run-off, you can be required to remove your system.

    Washington State is not alone in this policy...

    Fail because the Coward can't do a 30 second google search to see that Brian Miller was correct and the Government has taken ownership of rain water.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021