One of the biggest problems faced by humanity as of now is Water Scarcity. Water Scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region. While this is a relevant problem in the global context, it is even more important to resolve this issue at the national level, because India is an agriculturally dependent economy. As of 2017, farmer suicides have occurred in large numbers in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh , Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand.
The most significant factor behind these deaths is the dependency on monsoon. If the monsoon fails, there is no other source of water available in many areas of the country and there is nothing that can be done to prevent crop-failure thus resulting bank debts and inability to perform responsibilities due to their families, hence triggering a plethora of suicides. Recently, the drought in Tamil Nadu has been in the forefront with the Cauvery River Water dispute being brought to the Supreme Court. While governments battle it out, the thought that comes to mind is that thousands of farmers are giving up their lives while this legal banter is going on indefinitely. Would it not be better to utilize the technology and science which has developed to solve this problem permanently? Fresh Water accounts for only 2.5% of the total water available on the blue planet. The rest of the water is Saline or Sea Water. Desalination is the process that separates dissolved salts, minerals and other impurities from water and makes it potable, i.
e, fit for drinking. Would not the most obvious solution to the problem of water scarcity be to invest in Desalination plants? However, there is the problem of feasibility. The leading process in terms of installed capacity and yearly growth, which is adopted for desalination, is Reverse Osmosis. However, due to the high energy input requirement of the process and the expensive infrastructure needed, it has been set aside. I feel that seawater desalination should be seriously considered and explored considering the fact that it offers high quality, potable water consistently regardless of other climatic constraints and rising demand of water supply. So, the necessity is to deal with both the necessity for expensive infrastructure and the high energy input requirement. Let us first take the problem of high energy input requirement. As of now, we can say that energy production is now able to keep pace with energy requirements due to wide development of non-conventional and renewable sources of energy production such as solar, wind, hydroelectric etc.
,. In June 2002, the South Florida Water Management District commissioned a study to investigate the feasibility of co-locating desalination plants within the premises of thermal electric power plants. The study demonstrated that significant amounts of drinkable water were produced at a moderate cost. This co-location provides benefits which can be classified as environmentally compliant and cost-effective. While utilizing already developed infrastructure helps significantly cut down capital expenditure, the osmosis concentrate could be disposed off along with wastewater used for thermal cooling in the power plant for treatment. After I read this report, I began to question why such co-location had to be restricted to thermal power plants alone.
If extended to other renewable methods of producing energy, I could see that desalination costs could be brought down still further. Especially, if they’re located near dams, the energy which is used to run turbines can be used to desalinate transported seawater and the fresh water produced can be treated and releases into freshwater bodies. This also solves the issue of desalination contributing to global warming when convention energy sources are used to power the process. Also, Solar and Wind Energy are now available at the same price range as fossil fuel and more importantly, fossil fuel prices are only going to be getting higher with decreasing availability as opposed to renewable energy sources. Solar powered desalination plants are going to play a very important role in the future in mitigating water scarcity.
Also, desalination plants can be constructed in areas with large number of wind farms so that generated wind energy can be effectively harnessed and efficiently utilized. Now, bringing all of this to the Indian context, India is a peninsula, i.e., it is surrounded by water on the majority of its border. It is flanked by the Bay of Bengal on the East, the Indian Ocean to the South and The Arabian Sea to the West which provides us with immense potential that has to be tapped.
If we zoom in even closer and consider just Tamil Nadu, we have the largest wind energy production capacity in India of 7648.31 MW. My idea is of co-locating desalination plants and wind farms which is a very feasible prospect. If this comes to fruition, it will be an immense boost to farmers and permanently resolve the issue of water scarcity and drought issues in Tamil Nadu. This idea could potentially save millions of lives across the state, if worked upon and implemented. While I realize that there are a lot more constraints, whether economic, technological or environmental which have to be worked upon, this has such significance that it should not be passed on.
The greatest innovation is one which brings the maximum impact to the lives of people and helps improve the quality of their living. If it is developed further and put to practice, my idea could potentially remove the hanging sword of water scarcity which is hanging above our heads and this constraint would cease to exist. Hence, I feel it would not be wrong to say that my idea of utilizing renewable energy resources to desalinate seawater is the greatest innovative idea of 2017 and that I, Sriya Ravi am the greatest innovator of the year 2017.