What it is
People need access to clean water at least to drink, and also for hygiene and many industries. This is a basic human need that is responsible for a lot of conflict and premature death. This is an issue that gets a lot of recognition in poorer countries that do not have widespread sanitation and water systems, but is perhaps one of the most underrated sustainability issues of the day with regards to getting fresh water to those who have had it for decades. There are two major issues with getting clean, drinkable water to people. The first is having access to an actual water source, the second is being able to clean that water. This section will talk about both of these problems.
There are two major issues with getting clean, drinkable water to people
The access problem revolves around the fact that demand is rising very quickly, with water usage growing twice as fast as populations
, which are also growing, combined with the fact that the supply is not getting any larger. In many places, growth is exceeding the capabilities of nearby existing freshwater supplies. If you can no longer get fresh water from streams or rivers or the ground, and your options are to ship it in or to make it from saltwater. The primary solution to water access that we will cover here is desalination, which is the removal of salt from saltwater.
The second problem, that of clean water, revolves around the idea that even if you do have access to freshwater sources, they may be too polluted either from natural or human processes to safely drink. This is a problem in many areas of the world that do not have centralized water sanitation plants. The purification of saltwater is actually a subset of this problem. High salt concentrations are a toxin that must be cleaned out of a water source via one of a couple desalination methods. There are a number of solutions being proposed for sanitation issues that will be discussed in more detail in the How We Get There
Live Science - Desalination
Article describing the difficulties currently faced in desalination technologyClick now to view