Making clean water from…a rather unconventional source

bill-gates-drinks-water-that-was-poop-in-machine-demonstration

So one issue that a lot of people will be facing, if it isn’t already an issue, is the availability of clean water. Numerous places will experience drought while some will see catastrophic floods. Other places, such as Kiribati, are already seeing some of their only sources of clean water being intruded upon by salt water from the ocean.

But why don’t we just take the salt out of the ocean water?

Desalinization is really energy demanding. Typically it takes between 7-18 kwh per cubic meter of sea water to make desalinated water. So you want to desalinate 100 cubic meters of water? 700-1,800 kWh of energy (700,000-1,800,000 watts/hour). The maximum wattage of my refrigerator is 400 watts/hour. That could run my fridge for 1,750 hours or almost 73 days at lowest necessary energy of 700 kWh.

Let’s use Ethiopia’s freshwater withdraw as an example: it was 10.6 billion cubic meters in 2014. 74,200,000,000,000 watts (185,500,000,000 hours or 7,729,166,667 days for my fridge) at least. Now obviously it wouldn’t rely only on desalinization, so if it is only 10% of the total water withdrawals it would require 1,060,000,000 watts (110,417 days of fridge operation).

So maybe that example was a bit absurd, but the point is that desalinization requires a lot of energy to make drinkable water. Transporting water from elsewhere isn’t exactly a green solution or cost effective…or a permanent solution. We can’t keep pumping water out of the ground because it will run out eventually.

We could either think of another solution or we could just wait for the end. While thinking of solutions like fusion energy to produce tons of energy or making desalinization more efficient, some guy decided to throw poop into a machine and make clean water out of that.

Bill Gates helped to fund the project by Janicki Bioenergy. Not only does the machine (called the Omniprocessor) they made produce clean water from poop, but it also produces more energy than it uses so it can produce power. So this magical machine makes poop into clean water and energy and solves sanitation issues. Hopefully it makes it into real world use and doesn’t just stay as an odd machine that worked but was never used again.

It is slated for a test run in Senegal, so hopefully it works as well as the one in the video (first link).

  • Josh Obermeyer

Links:

Bill Gate’s Experience with the Omniprocessor

Desalination FAQ from a Company that Produces the Technology

World Bank Data for Ethiopia’s Water Withdrawal

2 thoughts on “Making clean water from…a rather unconventional source

  1. I really found your post to be very interesting. My post spoke about the waste of water in the extraction of crude oil so I have been thinking about this topic already some. I often times think back on this question myself. I think a lot about all of that fresh glacier water that flows right into the ocean upon melting and feel that we should be utilizing this as resource. The biggest problem would be the transportation issue making this too a costly option. Honestly if you think about it water bottle companies already incur these distribution fees anyway so hopefully catching water before it needs to be desalinized will become a viable option one day.
    -Tymandra Amburgy-

    Like

  2. This is oddly interesting. Bill Gates never stops surprising me, especially with all the unique projects that he funds. Hopefully this idea is something that can be of persistent use in the future. An as for desalinizing saltwater, it really is absurd to consider all of the numbers involved. I’m impressed with the data, and this post definitely kept my mind open.

    Andrew Ebding

    Like

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