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Saturday, December 06, 2008


Carbon nanotubes are being developed that are thin & sturdy enough to prevent salt in seawater passing through while allowing fresh water to pass.

In the initial discovery, reported in the May 19, 2006 issue of the journal Science, the LLNL team found that water molecules in a carbon nanotube move fast and do not stick to the nanotube’s super smooth surface, much like water moves through biological channels. The water molecules travel in chains - because they interact with each other strongly via hydrogen bonds....

A while back I asked a member of the LLNL team what the best investment of dollars would be for research in this field. He said that the best investment currently would be “in coming up with scalable (economical) processes for producing membranes that use nanotubes or other useful nanomaterials for desalination.”

Which seems to me to be where a number of X-Prizes for achieving improved membranes & improved large scale manufacturing methods to cover the load would be useful. Ultimately somebody will be able to produce a large breakwater to provide a lagoon of permanently fresh water at which point it will be profitable, but the intermediate research may not be.

At which point Israel can build one on their northern Mediterranean coast & cut a tunnel through to the Sea of Galilee.

This shows the amount of the Dead Sea area which is below sea level. The sea itself is 400m below. Imagine it as a sea of fresh (perhaps brackish) water. Water flowing into Galilee would provide hydro power which could be used to pump out the water from the Dead Sea & eventually keep a throughflow of new water. This isn't perpetual motion because, with the surface area about 6 times greater than currently the amount of evaporation would be tremendous so only a small proportion would get pumped out & hydro pump storage runs at about 80% efficiency.

God may have promised the Hebrews a "land flowing with milk & honey" but that was back when the Sahara was still the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. Since then it has fallen off a bit. However with an entire sea full of fresh water (& enough hydro or nuclear power to get it into the fields) the land on both sides of the Jordan could become very fertile indeed.

How the politics works out is up to the locals but certainly there would be enough fertile land to support everybody.

’The next war in the Middle East will be over water’ Dr Boutros-Ghali

Ending the water shortage would be the best possible step for peace.

An alternative would be to divert much of the water from the Euphrates by tunnel through Syria perhaps as the price for getting the Golan Heights back. However the Iraquis who live downstream would be legitimately livid & under international law would be in the right.

A more traditional use of the water from the Euphrates & Tigris would be to emulate its original civilisations. The ancient Babylonians, in an age when the height of technology was a wooden spade made the area between these rivers the most fertile area in the world. In the age of massive earthmovers it should be possible to make use of most of the water flowing in these rivers. The Tigris at 1,2490 cubic metres/second & the Euphrates is estimated at half this is, in total, a bit less than the Nile but has clearly proven more than sufficient in the past.

Addendum 2
Lake Eyre in South Australia is 37 m below sea level. It could be turned into a fresh water lake in the same way.

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