By Jess Phillips
March 22nd 2016 marks the 23rd annual World Water Day. Founded by The United Nations Generally Assembly, World Water Day marks an opportunity to learn about water related issues across the globe.
You probably already know that only 3% of the world’s water is suitable for human use, and 99% of that 3% is unavailable.1 When you’re reminded of these facts, you may take the initiative to decrease your water usage. Perhaps you’ll take shorter showers or run the dishwasher less often.
But, let’s take this whole “water appreciation” thing to the next level. Fresh water is essential to sustain life on Earth and we are facing a global water crisis.
Water is much more than something we use to quench our thirst and sustain proper hygiene. Adequate access to water helps maintain a peaceful society; it dictates the health of our overall environment; and, it is essential to sustaining modern society.
Water Equals Peace
Poor access to water has been at the root of significant violence for over 5,000 years and continues to create conflict to this day.2 Political analysts have suggested that the devastating drought in Syria may have fueled their civil war by increasing unemployment and famine. Lack of water caused farmers to uproot from their homes and into overcrowded cities, where UNICEF has reported that antagonists are “using water to achieve military and political gains.”3
Dr. Ted Johnson, OTE Corporation’s Senior Vice President and Director of OTEC Programs, agrees that the “lack of potable water is one of the major issues in the world right now.”5 There are millions of people worldwide without access to safe drinking water, and over 840,000 people die each year from water-related issues. Resolving the water crisis won’t guarantee peace, but without a solution, peace is unattainable.
Water Dictates the Health of the Environment
Just like the human body, the Earth is made up primarily of water. As Dr. Steve Oney, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation’s Chief Science Advisor, notes, “The ocean represents 71% of our planet’s surface in volume. A one-degree raise over the last 50 plus years is an enormous amount of energy being stored.”
Unfortunately, this narrative seems to be missing from the Climate Change conversation. We tend to focus on atmospheric temperature instead of ocean temperature, which influences the overall global weather system. “It’s all heat being moved from the ocean to the arctic zones,” says Oney, who boasts over 30 years of experience in ocean engineering. He adds “when the temperature of the ocean rises, Mother Nature doesn’t necessary have the same system, so we’re seeing shifts. You have to understand the entire system, which is driven primarily by the oceans.”
A 1-2° raise in Fahrenheit doesn’t sound significant, but liken that to the human body. When your body increases from the standard 98F to 100F, it’s considered a fever: indicating that it’s fighting infection. Even a slight change in temperature would make the average person pay more attention to their health, so why not pay more attention to our planet’s “fever?”
That’s Dr. Oney’s biggest frustration as an Ocean Engineer: “People ignore the ocean and that’s what completely controls our planet. It’s the reason we have life on the planet.”
Water Sustains Life
Life on Earth cannot exist without clean, fresh water, and it is essential to maintain our current society. Everyone needs water to survive, and it takes a lot of energy to produce. In turn, water is essential to producing energy.
“As the world increases its requirement for water, it also increases its requirement for energy and vice versa,” says Oney. He added, “There is an energy-water nexus that exists.” All types of energy require water to process materials, construct and maintain plants, or even generate electricity.
While it’s evident that we need water to replenish thirst, sustain proper hygiene, and support agricultural and industrial efforts, we should be more aware of water’s relationship with energy. As the world’s population continues to increase, we’ll need more sustainable sources of both clean energy and clean water.
OTEC Is A Solution
The good news is: there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is solution that creates fresh, drinkable water and 100% clean energy. It works by using the temperature differential of the heat stored in the ocean’s surface and the cool, deep water at the ocean’s floor to create steam. The steam then turns a turbine, creating electricity.
Essentially, OTEC takes advantage of the ocean as a solar collector giving access to constant 24/7 power. Dr. Johnson explains, “The ocean is where all the energy is and OTEC is just a heat pump. It’s the same way your refrigerator works. It takes all the energy out and creates electricity.” As a natural by-product, OTEC produces pure, clean water for drinking, agriculture, and aquaculture.
This breakthrough technology isn’t new. In fact, China, Martinique, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all currently working to develop commercial OTEC plants. South Korea and Japan have already completed their Research and Development plants too. “OTEC is a technology that’s been proven over the years,” Dr. Johnson assures. He should know. He has worked to develop the technology since the first OTEC plant in Hawaii in 1974.
Dr. Oney adds that OTEC even has the potential to reverse climate change. “With OTEC, we could control where we discharge the water, and we could cool down the surface of the ocean a little bit by manipulating the distribution of return water from an OTEC plant,” he adds, “One plant wouldn’t have any effect, but on a global scale, theoretically, we could affect the weather patterns.”
With a technology as multifaceted as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion on the market, it’s the perfect time to address the global water crisis with an actual solution. For more ways to get involved, check out Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation on the web. You can also read the full interviews with both Dr. Oney and Dr. Johnson here:
- “Steve Oney Interview Part I: World Water Day.”
- “Steve Oney Interview Part II: Climate Change.”
- “Dr. Ted Johnson Interview – April 2015”
- “Earth’s Freshwater.” © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/media/earths-fresh-water/?ar_a=1
- “National Geographic Science Blogs: Water, Security, and Conflict: Violence over Water in 2015.” © 2016 Pacific Institute. http://pacinst.org/water-security-and-conflict-violence-over-water-in-2015/
- “Severe water shortages compound the misery of millions in war-torn Syria – says UNICEF.” © 2015. http://www.unicef.org/media/media_82980.html
- “Steve Oney Interview Part I: World Water Day.” © 2015 Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation. http://otecorporation.com/2015/03/21/steve-oney-interview-part-i-world-water-day/
- “Dr. Ted Johnson Interview – April 2015” © 2015 Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation. http://otecorporation.com/2015/06/23/dr-ted-johnson-interview-april-2015/
- “Steve Oney Interview Part II: Climate Change.” © 2015 Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation. http://otecorporation.com/2015/04/25/steve-oney-interview-part-ii-climate-change/