Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Man-made' Water Has Different Chemistry

Date:
June 20, 2008
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
As population growth, food production and the regional effects of climate change place greater stress on the Earth's natural water supply, "man-made" water -- created by removing salt from seawater and brackish groundwater through reverse osmosis desalination -- will become an increasingly important resource for millions of humans, especially those in arid regions such as the Middle East, the western United States, northern Africa and central Asia.

As population growth, food production and the regional effects of climate change place greater stress on the Earth’s natural water supply, “man-made” water – created by removing salt from seawater and brackish groundwater through reverse osmosis desalination – will become an increasingly important resource for millions of humans, especially those in arid regions such as the Middle East, the western United States, northern Africa and central Asia.

Related Articles


But the introduction of this life-giving water will bring changes to the environment.

“Water that’s been desalted through reverse osmosis contains a unique composition which will induce changes in the chemistry and ecology of aquifers and natural water systems it enters,” says Avner Vengosh, associate professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

A new study by Vengosh and colleagues in France and Israel provides tools to identify and trace this man-made water as it mixes with natural water supplies and, over time, replaces natural waters in areas entirely dependent on desalination.   

The study, published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, details for the first time the isotope geochemistry – or chemical fingerprints – of the elements boron, lithium, strontium, oxygen and hydrogen found in reverse osmosis-desalted seawater and brackish groundwater.

Identifying these unique geochemical and isotopic fingerprints gives scientists and water-quality managers a new array of tools for tracing the presence and distribution of man-made fresh water in a region’s soils, surface waters and ground waters, Vengosh says.

“We studied the chemistry of water produced in several of the largest desalination plants on earth and found that that composition of the desalted water is totally different from those of natural waters,” he explains. “As this water leaks into the environment through poor infrastructure or enters it directly through irrigation, it will be possible to use our new tracers to track the water back to its origin.

“It’s sort of like a detective who collects fingerprints at the scene of the crime and matches them to the guilty suspect,” he says.

Being able to trace water back to a desalinated source through its isotopic and geochemical fingerprints will allow local governments and water utilities to zero in on the problem of valuable water loss and correct it more quickly and efficiently.

Moreover, because desalted wastewater can be recycled through the environment and reused as a drinking water source – a process already being used in southern California – the new tools would enable water authorities to trace the relative contribution of desalted water in their system, and to test the effectiveness of their water treatment processes.

“This will be especially beneficial in water-scarce regions like California or the Middle East, where natural water sources are diminishing and made-made waters are becoming the ultimate water sources,” Vengosh says. “Given the complexity and variety of man-made fresh water sources being used to replace natural recharge in these regions, traditional tests alone, such as testing for water salinity, cannot provide a single solution.”

Global capacities for producing freshwater through desalination are projected to double by the year 2015, he notes. In some regions, diminished natural water supplies already are problematic. In California, which is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades, new housing and other development is being slowed or stopped under a state law that requires a 20-year water supply as a condition for approval before building can begin. Increased use of freshwater produced through desalination could help resolve this issue, Vengosh says. 

Vengosh is a geochemist who is internationally cited for his expertise on the chemical and isotopic composition of water contaminants. His research has led to the development of new, more accurate methods for tracing contaminants in water supplies worldwide, from boron-laden surface and ground waters in the Middle East to radon-contaminated groundwater in the mountains of western North Carolina.

He co-authored the new study with Wolfram Kloppmann, Catherine Guerrot and Romain Millot of the Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres of France, and Irena Pankratov of the National Water Commission of Israel.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "'Man-made' Water Has Different Chemistry." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080619135123.htm>.
Duke University. (2008, June 20). 'Man-made' Water Has Different Chemistry. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080619135123.htm
Duke University. "'Man-made' Water Has Different Chemistry." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080619135123.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins