Sunday, 5 October 2008: 3:20 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 320DE
The United Nations estimates that 1.1 billion people do not have proper access to sustainable, clean drinking water, and that approximately 1.6 million children will die each year from lack of adequate potable water. Desalinization of ocean water embodies a potentially important resource to meet this challenge, particularly when one considers that presently about 40% of the world's population lives within 100 kilometers of a coastline. Large scale implementation of desalinization is restricted by its cost, environmental concerns, and notably, its ability to reach those in need. The refitting of several types of large, ocean going-vessels, to serve as mobile desalinization plants, has the potential to address some of these needs. Aircraft carriers, for example, have historically had to generate sizable quantities of fresh water - this paper investigates the feasibility of expanding that capability for supply to land communities. The feasibility of creating these large mobile plants for fresh water supply rests on many issues. These issues include economic practicability, environmental questions such as the impact of brine release or the possible concentration of specific pollutants in the desalinization process, engineering considerations including weight distribution and navigability, and security concerns. Floating, mobile desalinization platforms have obvious advantages in energy generation; wind and wave power can be harnessed, halocline circulation can be exploited, and some ships, such as large aircraft carriers, have nuclear engines. The challenges of the cost associated with building new ships or retrofitting old ones, operating and maintenance costs, and security costs are sizable. However, it should be noted that some comparative operating costs, such as those associated with large numbers of people in a conventional aircraft carrier, would be anticipated to be much less in a mobile desalinization platform.