Water scarcity is a major global crisis that affects two-thirds of the world’s population who lack access to clean water for at least a month each year. Scientists estimate that by 2025, half of the world’s population could be living in areas where water is scarce.
The idea of desalination has been around for nearly 50 years now and seems like a promising solution in the long run. However, the common desalination method of reverse osmosis (RO) is expensive and pretty costly in terms of energy consumption.
That's why researchers from the EU-funded H2020 W2O project have come up with what's possibly a viable solution: renewable energy-powered off-grid systems.
Desalination made possible with wave-powered technology
While the innovative MDC technology that follows a green, low-energy process with electro-active bacteria to desalinate and sterilize seawater has been around for a while, the research team started looking for other simple ways to help developing countries, isolated islands, and coastal areas. That's when they decided to use the power of the ocean waves, an endless and powerful renewable energy source.
Olivier Ceberio, a member of the project team, said "harnessing the power of ocean waves with a technology that can produce fresh water to many of the 2.1 billion people globally struggling to access safe drinking water is the answer," in the press release
The team's off-grid, revolutionary system Wave20 can be installed fast, operate completely off-grid, and produce large quantities of fresh water at a low cost. The new system is the world's first wave-powered desalination system that doesn't require electricity. Wave20 drives free energy from an unlimited energy source with the help of a Wave Energy Converter (WEC) placed on the seafloor which moves back and forth with the waves. Neat!
According to European Commission's press release, the new system's daily production of water can cover the water needs of around 40,000 people, which is great news for people who have been dealing with water scarcity in remote areas of the world.
For the time being, the team is doing a test run with the small-scale model of the Wave2O in their test facilities in the United States and will proceed to the ocean implementation for a second test run in the Canary Islands and another one later in Cape Verde, both remote areas that are dealing with water scarcity, states the press release.
The Earth is known as the Blue Planet due to its 70 percent water ratio. However, freshwater, which is crucial for humans, is incredibly rare at only 3 percent and two-thirds of that is stored in frozen glaciers or already unavailable for use. What's more, many water systems that keep ecosystems alive including rivers, lakes, and aquifers are either polluted or drying up. With global warming causing severe droughts, many countries around the world have no choice but to turn to the sea for their water, and it costs more than most people can afford. Will this new technique turn the tide around and prove to be a ray of hope for the future?