Saturday, October 28, 2006

Water is more vital than Oil or Gold 

Investing in transporting water
...New technology is about to make shortages of potable water a thing of the past...
Jonathan Kolber - Other articles Fri 27 Oct, 2006
New technology is about to make shortages of potable water a thing of the past. I recently met with a representative of this new venture in California, who told me that there are a collection of companies capable of, well, making water from thin air. Wired News reports that the technology is winning acceptance from the military. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeded the research by backing a few early stage companies. However, an independent company is leading the pack. Aqua Sciences was first to market with a system capable of delivering water in places with unforgiving climates, such as Iraq. A 20-foot machine produces 600 gallons of water a day with zero toxic emissions or by-products. It was demonstrated on Capitol Hill last week to accolades from congressmen. According to CEO Abe Sher, "The atmosphere is a river full of water, even in the desert. It won't work absolutely everywhere, but it works virtually everywhere... We figured out how to mimic nature, using natural salt to extract water and act as a natural decontamination." While the economics of replacing conventional sources of water with "air water" have yet to be convincingly demonstrated, the technology's representative believes its process will ultimately produce water at 7 cents per gallon. Clearly, such pricing will make it an attractive alternative to trucking water into disaster areas or military theatres. Further, as deep aquifers begin to be depleted in places such as Las Vegas, expect these units to become an attractive alternative to bringing in water via truck, train or diversion of rivers. All of those alternatives carry a tremendous cost in fuel, infrastructure or environmental consequences. In military theatres and disaster relief, it's a slam-dunk. Bringing water via C-17 cargo planes costs $30 a gallon. This new approach slashes that 100-fold, to just 30 cents a gallon. While many technologies can produce water this way in theory, this new machine needs just 14% humidity. This makes it suitable for most places on Earth. What is the significance of this? Many forward-looking thinkers have made the case that fresh water is the "next oil crisis." Supplies in many parts of the world have been diminishing as demand has been rising. Global warming will disrupt ecosystems, further reducing supplies and – if predictions of more severe weather prove accurate – increasing need for disaster relief sources of water. But there is a practically unlimited supply of fresh water in Earth's atmosphere. Just to give one example, scientists have documented a "river of air" that is more than 100 miles wide and carries more water than the Amazon. This water from air is but the first of a series of emerging technologies that will shortly arise to address the need for potable water. I am also aware of nanotechnology membranes that use minimal amounts of electricity to separate salt and all other substances from ocean water, cutting the costs of reverse-osmosis dramatically. These membranes are not yet being produced in volume. Once volume production is underway for new approaches, whether nanotechnology membranes, air extraction or others, costs will plummet as they always do. Regards,Jonathan Kolberfor The Daily Reckoning
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