Water, somewhat like matter and energy, is not really created or destroyed. We do not literally consume water, and then there is no more, we use water and it is directly or indirectly recycled. The notion that we are running out of water in the United States is a misconception. What is really happening is that a lot of processed water is being wasted.
The only way water is destroyed in a literal way is through electrolysis of water in which the hydrogen and oxygen molecular bonds can be broken. But there are very few instances where electrolysis is used in any large scale form. This fact would actually militate for the use of hydrogen fuel cells in vehicle transportation systems since hydrogen is used as fuel to create electricity. Water into hydrogen and back into water again. Cleand and perfect. The subject of another blog, perhaps.
Water is everywhere. We live on a planet that is covered in water and we have water stored in aquifers under the ground. Evaporation from the oceans forms atmospheric water that precipitates out as rain. The global jet streams that arise from the planet’s rotation have a great deal to do with where the water goes. Annual rains in the fall and spring provide and winter snow creates run off that feeds rivers and replenishes underground aquifers. Humans beings use water and process water for agricultural and industrial use.
We are not running out of water, water is not disappearing, we are simply not managing it correctly. In large measure, this is a government problem. Municipal, State and Federal authorities are responsible for management of water resources and over the years. Government administrations turn over every few years, so there not much cumulative learning or best practices. Legislation and regulations that are enacted remain in force, even if they are wrong. Government, institutionally, seems incapable of appreciating the science and technology involved. Worse still, the presence of lobbying forces tends to influence regulatory policy to conflict with real public interest.
The core issues are storage and treatment. Storage is created in water towers and ground storage tanks. All of these systems involve lift pumps to get the water where it is going. Gravity or supplemental pump pressure delivers the water to residential and commercial users. 16% of all water processed for use is lost in the delivery system. This number is a great deal higher in areas with aging infrastructure.
Water treatment is a complex mix of mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering all of which involves pumps and electric motors. We will get into more on these subjects over the next few posts.