Securing fresh water
discovers a water desalination project with a "nano" touch
Using renewable energy, we all know, is the only way we can hope to save the planet from the toxic pollution of organic fuel. Through the use of renewable energy, we hope to heat our houses better, operate our computers, move humans and other objects around, and produce a few useful things, like water, for example.
Fresh water is becoming as scarce as other exhaustible resources. Water is not exactly in limited supply, for the world is getting more or less the same amount of precipitation that it has for centuries. But with a lot more people around, we are getting through much more water than ever before.
The problem is worse in countries with extensive desert areas, like Egypt, and in countries sharing one river. In these cases, upstream countries may squabble with downstream ones over a limited supply of fresh water.
Egypt and Jordan have been at the heart of such problems for years, and the two countries are now seeking a technological solution to their water shortages. Scientists at Alexandria University and al-Tofeilah University in Jordan, with help from the European Union, are working on an experimental project to desalinate water through more sophisticated methods that the usual surface evaporation techniques.
Boshra Salama, the executive director of the project, says that "a new technique called multi-stage flash (MSF) is proving more effective than other systems using top brine temperature (TBT). While TBT leaves a lot of deposits, MSF is combined with modern nanotechnology filtering systems (NF) to ensure a more effective removal of deposits."
The good news is that the new methods are also environmentally friendly. Fresh water can be produced through the use of renewable energy resources, mostly wind and solar power. The present project, which started in 2009, is currently producing one cubic metre of water per hour. But once the experimental phase is over, daily production will shoot up to 5,000 cubic meters.
The project is headquartered in Wadi al-Natroun close to the Cairo-Alexandria road. Costs so far have been some US$0.5 million, most of which is EU-financed. According to Salama, the new method can be used with equal effect with sea, lake and well water.
Hasan al-Banna Fath, a project researcher, said that "once the research is completed, engineers will start working on commercial models that will be less expensive, more environmentally friendly, and less power-consuming than anything we have now."
Experts currently working in Wadi al-Natroun are conducting macroscopic and microscopic analyses for the new system components. Pilot test units, Fath says, will be designed and constructed to verify the innovative system's performance.
The per capita consumption of water in Egypt has dropped from 1,100 cubic metres per year in 1990, to 750 cubic metres or so at present. It is expected to drop to 600 cubic meters per year by the end of the next decade.