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We are currently dealing with the same approximately 1% of the world's fresh water that is available to us that we have been for thousands of years, however our populations are growing, our individual demands are growing, and we are polluting and contaminating a larger percentage of this water every year.

The Aral Sea has shrunk by 90% in recent decades
There are a large number of areas around the world suffering a prolonged drought, Australia is a great example of one, where areas have seen a 15 to 20 percent decrease in precipitation over the last decade. Another example is in central Asia, where the Aral Sea has shrunk by 90% in recent decades. On the sanitation side, there are approximately 1.8 million people who die every year from water quality diseases and tens of millions more that are seriously sickened by water-related diseases.

Desalination Attempts

Rather than relying on being able to pump freshwater in from neighboring municipalities, an increasing number of places in the world are recognizing that they will need to rely on desalination technologies in the near future. It is already a very common practice in Middle Eastern countries, where, in mid-2007, 75% of the world's desalination was occurring. This is because the Middle East is relatively water-poor, but energy-rich. World-wide, 13,080 desalination plants produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day, according to the International Desalination Association.

The current technologies rely on either distilling the water, boiling it and collecting the evaporated water, which is then separated from the salt, or pushing the water through a membrane salt can not fit through. Unfortunately these current technologies are quite expensive from both a monetary and energy standpoint. There are also other environmental costs such as the emissions from the plants and the wastewater that tends to be very hot and has very high salt concentrations. For more details on capital, operating, and maintenance costs of a variety of different types of plants in California, check out this website.

Sanitation Attempts

There are attempts to sanitize drinking water of all different scales and technologies that are being targeted to appropriate circumstances. Processes used to sanitize dirty water sources vary greatly based on the amount of money to be spent, energy available, and infrastructure already in place. These processes range from centralized treatment centers that deal primarily with chemical additives to point of use systems that can involve any combination of adding chemicals, filtering, irradiating, pushing through membranes, or distilling, much in the same way salt is removed from saltwater. These can be mechanical processes or irradiating and distilling can be mostly solar powered. The current problem with these systems is their effectiveness, cost, energy usage, and access to the systems where they are most needed.
UMich - Human Appropriation of Fresh Water Supplies
Information on the amount of renewable water available for human consumption.
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Find Articles - Australia Drought
Article about the prolonged drought being experienced by Australia.
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Green Car Congress - Miles Traveled
Report on drop in US vehicle miles traveled as of May 2008
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Drinking-Water.org
Global Health and Education Fund website about clean water.
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Drinking-Water.org
Global Health and Education Fund website about clean water.
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Wikipedia - Desalination
Wikipedia article on desalination
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Wikipedia - Desalination
Wikipedia article on desalination
Click now to view
Drinking-Water.org
Global Health and Education Fund website about clean water.
Click now to view
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