Scientists, Companies Make Drinking Water from Oceans

Sep 19, 2022

Desalination. It's like making fresh water in science class, only some are using sunlight instead of fire to turn a little of the sea into water we can drink. 

Researchers and companies think the process can help solve Earth’s water problem. About 1.1 billion people don't have access to water. That's expected to get worse as climate change continues. Populations are also growing. 

MIT researchers have created solar-powered greenhouses to distill water. Manhat, a startup, is marketing its own system. The company says it’s an alternative to existing desalination plants. They are expensive, use fossil fuels, and pump brine into the oceans. Brine can hurt wildlife.

The solar distillation greenhouses only have salt leftover. It's returned to the ocean. The greenhouses are placed along the shore. They collect seawater. The saltwater is heated by the sun. That causes it to evaporate. Fresh water comes from it.

The company is making “floating farms.” Those are platforms anchored in the sea. They use fresh water made by them to water plants growing inside these structures. Earlier this year, Manhat won a Water Europe Innovation award for its efforts to make drinkable water with “zero carbon footprint and zero brine rejection.”

The main problem with the technology, though, is that it’s a long way from large-scale use. Manhat’s 2.25-square-meter prototype makes 15 liters per day. MIT’s version, researchers say, creates that much per hour. Neither comes close to making how much water a person needs per day. The World Health Organization requires 50 to 100 liters of water per person per day for drinking and washing. 

Photo by Ant Rozetsky courtesy of Unsplash.

According to the passage, why are researchers attempting to improve current methods to desalinate water? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. Earth’s water scarcity problem
b. current desalination methods have zero carbon footprint
c. desalination greenhouses produce leftover salt
d. current desalination methods are like making distilled water in science class
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