If you listen to the loudest mouths in the water treatment industry (CEOs , Investors, College Researchers, and Marketing Executives) you will read claims of earth-shattering, innovative, revolutionary new water technologies. If however you talk to the people that actually solve water problems you will learn that it is the conventional technologies, and orthodox application science that solve 99.9% of water-related challenges. Reverse Osmosis, Ultra/Nano Filtration, Ion Exchange, Depth and Media Filtration, centrifugation, distillation, chemical treatment/precipitation and evaporation remain the undisputed kings of the water treatment tool box.
Because water is so exciting and attention getting, it attracts every satchel-ass ego maniac who believes that they will be the ones to rescue the world’s water, regardless of all the knowledge and science that has gone before. Accordingly, new water technologies are being presented to the industry almost daily. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are poorly researched nonsense.
The shortcomings of today’s water executive is in not understanding mass balance and energy balance. The reason the aforementioned technologies are so popular is because they can sequester, separate, remove, concentrate, and then allow for the transportation of the contaminant to another application such as reuse, manufacturing, or reduced waste.
As I always teach; any time one treats water the result is a new water with different properties and challenges. The mantra of, “we can remove x” sounds great to the activist who sells shoes for a living, but to an application engineer, the reaction of “so what” is likely to be heard. The application engineer always answers the question of “then what?” The imbeciles of new technology are clueless to this. Treating water is a process and every step in the process must be accounted for. With that said, here are some of the newer technologies worth mentioning.
- Water Pipelines – In my soon-to-be-released book, I paint a picture of America’s dire need to create water pipelines to bring water to places that are in need. This is especially important to finally stop the wild fires that we purposely allow to take place out west.
- Pipeline-based desalinization plants – Bringing saltwater from the ocean to the American West offers the advantage of high temperatures, high sunlight and long exposure time in transit to provide both low cost desalinization and very reasonable dynamics for collecting and redistributing the salt. I have put together a plan that once funded could begin to alleviate the problems in the Colorado River arena within 5 years.
- Redesigned relationships between municipal water providers, housing builders/designers, and point of use residential water treatment systems. In short, it is impossible to protect our water sources. Every process of civilization creates waste. Our water sources will continue to get more polluted. The time has come for us to accept municipal water as a starting point, and for truly well-engineered home treatment water polishing technology to become a reality. The garbage home treatment water systems being promoted now must be discarded in favor of actual engineered products.
- Glass Membranes – Porous glass membrane technology is astounding. It is in its infancy however, the resistance to high temperatures, prohibitive pH and high pressures make glass membranes, for me, the most exciting water technology to come along since RO. Stay tuned.
- Biochar – Simply stated, biochar is any carbon-based, cellulose plant material that has been charred/burned into what people commonly call charcoal. Wood, rice husks, corn cobbs, corn husks, grape leaves and even chicken feathers are being converted into biochar the world over. The pros are that the raw material is abundant, often times overwhelming in volume to dispose of, and the resulting char can be used for a variety of things including strengthening asphalt and giving volume to cement, removing contaminants from water, and improving soil conditions. There are some places in the world that sells biochar for as little as $20 per ton. The cons are that the high silica content in some chars cause asphalt to become slippery, the capacity to remove contaminants is very low when compared to traditional technologies, and much of the material is so light, but also bulky, it is very expensive to transport. Finally, because the material is light and bulky, treating contaminant streams actually produces a larger volume of waste that requires disposal. While offering attractive eco-friendly features up-front, when placed into real applications this media is very limited in its ability to treat water.
- Alternative media – In recent times media such as Titanium Dioxide and Alumina have been introduced to remove heavy metals from water. The mining/geology industries have produced some exciting new media as well. Stay tuned, as right now a lot of this is proprietary and just emerging from R&D.
- Tom Volinchak, Giant Killer – As always I am designing new systems and wreaking havoc on the big guys/past employers. When your water blowhard cant help you? I’m the guy you want to call.
“Hey Culligan man” my ass.