A tall, intellectually bright, upbeat & extroverted older man named Grisim & I were speaking about water filtering technologies. Mr. Grisim having originally studied electrical engineering, decided to go for 40+ long year career selling reverse osmosis systems to Intel & Kidney Dialysis clinics, where ultra high purity water is required for their operations. A brilliant, high functioning & interesting man to engage with, he was able to quickly give insight driven summaries of the parallels between grid power & water cleaning technology, between water chemistry & physics and electrical engineering, all while concisely expressive the primary issues surrounding different water filtering technologies.
"Pre treatment" with low cost materials and techniques like a settling tank help to clean up the brackish natural turbidity out of wild water, silt, dirt, bird poop and other crap settling to the bottom of large collection tank at the input, something akin to what happens at a sewer treatment plant. Sometimes adding a flocculant helps to pull the gunk out by coagulating funk into clumps that settle more easily. Gravel, Sand, Clay & Activated carbon along with subsequent passes through organic filter media, these cheap cleanup technique are often use to make up the intake water quality requirements from the input into an RO system that employees high pressure across an engineered membrane to clean up the water of most contaminates, eventually, through multiple RO passes even able to create water so pure it mimics 35 pass distillation quality, enough for electronics grade water uses in integrated circuit manufacturing on 300mm + platters @ Intel with stereo lithography for sub 14nm features in the latest CPU's production chips, or integrate circuits at the heart of the servers hosting the global internet or world wide web through which you are able to access my blog postings. Who know that ultra high purity water was essential for the information explosion happening right now in the Post Industrial Revolution! Those who hold the keys to information about everything hold the keys to wealth in the future!
Dean Kamen, the autistic engineers responsible for the Segway personal transportation technology inside my Segway Mini Pro, also produced a company building the vapor compression distillation water cleaning Slingshot unit, with commercialization aimed at bringing the per unit costs down to sub $3000. There is a cool movie all about this called "Slingshot"
I have a small borosilicate distillation setup that I was using to make cologne & perfume when I was studying chemistry as a college student. Well familiar with distillation as a concept, one of the only kinds of hard alcohol that I like is super clean Vodka, free of congeners and other funky compounds that cause hangover and tax your liver & kidneys, clean vodka passes through 5 distillation stages to purify the water ethanol mixture. The alcohol itself should be consumed with extreme moderation to avoid ethanols sharp dose/ toxicity curve that often kills people with alcohol poisoning, like the late singer Amy Winehouse. Wine'o directing traffic on Sunday, Mr. Prior. When I was calibrating my distillation setup initially, I used food dye & water to pull over the clean water, getting my heat source, timing and operation tuned :) I went to flower oils in the next stage to make some organic perfume extracts that were really hard to pull at lower temperatures, but also easy to burn, tricky! I ended up doing research on perfume & cologne chemistry that helped me uncover the toxic synthetic scent industry secrets. Perfume & Cologne are exempt from FDA safety because they are not foods or drugs meant for internal ingestion, but they can soak into your skin and wreak havoc on your biochemistry, causing mental & physical diseases via brain damage and histochemical simulation, like pollutants from industrial waste, many of the chemicals that smell good are actually potent carcinogens. Thinking about perfume caused me to get back to thinking about water quality.
Bad water smells bad, tastes bad, is often electrically conductive, and has poor light transmittance. Chlorine & Fluoride added to tap water in the USA tastes like crap, especially if you store the water in a plastic bottle where these halides interact with the plasticizer, forming micro emulsions that make the water taste like chlorinate plastic, smell like chlorine contaminate plastic, yuck! I was actually propelled into using Steel water bottles & ultimately switched to buying Voss glass water bottles & reusing them over & over, carefully not to break the brittle if not wonderful chemically inert glass that never contaminates the flavor purity of the filtered water I put into them.
I heat my filtered tea water in a glass 2 cup measuring apparatus, inside our microwave over for 5:55 to achieve a nice boil, letting it stand for a moment, I place a stainless screen cup tea brewer into my cup, put 1/2 to 2 scoops of organic gunpowder green tea, and pour the boiling water overtop to create a tea infusion, brewing up said until the temperature drops to a non-cell destructive warm hot range that I enjoy without damaging the stem cells in the lining of my mouth! Overly hot fluids can cause mouth cancers by frying the epithelial stem cells in your mouth!
When China built the 3 gorges Damn system, they created one of the largest clean renewable power plants in the world, wonderful because it was so large, some 18 nuclear power plants would have been required for a similar output, or 40,000 square miles of 20% efficient solar panels. The lake created behind the damn swallowed up a whole region, where heavy metal leaching now present a problems, factories now underwater. Industrial waste water contaminate with all kinds of toxic are leaking into the reservoir now, making the lake increasingly toxic to life of many kinds! Birds in particular are harmed by selenium, chromium, nickel, rare earths, a methyl mercury. Not to be overly pessimistic about the situation, the coal power plants in China are the leading source of pollution emissions, especially of radioactive metal dust! The hydro damn is thousands of times cleaner, even with swallowed industrialized cities, then toxic continuous stream of pollutants emitted by coal power plants!
The problem with cleaning up water comes down to energy, capital & operating costs for advanced water clean up technologies. To push seawater through RO requires more than 600psi of pump induced pressure to overcome the osmotic pressure gradients of salt water, noting that all powerful pumps like this are electric :) Thats tons of power per gallon :( which means expensive water :(
If we had more unlimited forms of energy, like commercial fusion reactors, turning sea water into fresh water would be a cheap feasible breeze! The realities of today is that energy intensive capital cost intensive nature of water purification mean that fresh water is going to become really expensive in the future if we continue fouling natural fresh water sources with pollutants generated by ignorant industrial operations focused on the short term maximization of profit! Greed is evil because of what it causes people to do to one another! Externalities like water pollution, are ways the corporations offload some of their costs by exploiting natural systems with pollution emissions that would be expensive to clean up or remediate before release. Think of the dioxin emissions of Kimberly Clarks chlorine intensive paper pulp processing for an example!