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Home > News > Is the Future Really Drying Up?

October 22nd, 2007

Is the Future Really Drying Up?

The New York Times Magazine yesterday ran an article entitled, "The Future is Drying Up" documenting the growing crisis over water in the western part of America. For the most part, it was a thoughtful and sobering look at a situation that desparately cries out for action. It is hard to argue with the fact that the region's surging population is putting an enormous amount of pressure on the area's dwindling water supply. The picture above of Lake Powell, alone, is quite telling.

For example, new advances in sensor technology will help people better monitor their water usage. These same sensors can be used to more accurately price water. If people know both how much water they are using and how much it costs, my prediction is that water usage will decrease.

Secondly, because agriculture is the biggest source of water consumption, I find it troubling that the author didn't at least acknowledge how new advances in genetically modified corn and wheat might lead to new strains of crops that need little water.

Third, new advances in wind and solar power might drive down the cost of powering desalination plants to the point where some water can be economically shipped from the Pacific Ocean to Arizona and Colorado. Related to this point, new advances in nanotechnology might also improve filtering technology. Again, such advances might make desalination a more viable solution.

Finally, new advances in nanomaterials could lead to some very innovative applications in how people get there water in the future. For instance, this piece explains how researchers are studying how the African beetle can collect water droplets from the air. The implication is that large swaths of the material (which would mimics the beetle's wing) might capture enough water everynight to fill a bath tub or wash a load of clothes.


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