Healthy Rich Soil and Water

desertification is a major concern

Dirt, Healthy Rich Soil and Fresh Clean Drinking Water.

Many countries around the world wish they had healthy soil to grow food in, regular rainfall, or access to fresh, clean drinking water.  

At the same time, there are record floods in places where it rarely rains; unfortunately, it never seems to rain enough in the places that need it the most.

Imagine being thirsty on a hot day but not a drop of water in sight.

One in every three people does not have access to safe drinking water; in fact, as you read this, about 2.5 billion people are in this situation.

Imagine being extremely thirsty but being unable to safely pour yourself a glass of fresh clean drinking water.

How much would you appreciate not having running water in your home, not being able to bathe, shower, or wash your hands?

For some people, this is their grim reality.

Several countries throughout the world receive less than 150mm of rain per year. For example, Egypt receives only approximately 50mm of rain per year.  

People in some countries must walk, ride or drive long distances to get water since they live in deserts with no rivers or dams.

It’s no surprise that the globe today has around 16,000 operating desalination plants spread across 177 nations, providing an estimated 95 million cubic metres of fresh water every day.

They do an excellent job, the desalination technology improvements are fantastic and zero brine discharge desalination plants are now a reality, so there’s a lot to be happy about in this space.

Desalination plants, together with the dirt beneath your feet, will play a significant role in healing this planet.

Healthy soil means healthy people and a healthy planet.

Heal the earth by healing the soil; when the soil is harmed, we are all harmed and our ability to survive on this planet is in danger, not just our access to food.  

The further we are from embracing the natural healing powers of the land, the more likely we are to ignore the warning signs and endanger the future of our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The ability of this planets soil to continue to serve as a vibrant living ecosystem that supports humans, animals, and plants is well and truly under threat.  

Soil health is critically important to our health. Life-sustaining water and nutrients, carbon capture, and the enabling of the small water cycle all occurs beneath our feet and is facilitated by healthy soil with plant life flourishing in it.

Healthy soil is a functioning ecosystem where dead organic matter serves as the foundation for a food chain that includes microscopic and larger organisms.  These organisms work together to maintain other biological processes, such as plant, animal, and human health.

To give this planet a chance, we must hope that one day we will realise and recognise that soil, plants, and micro-organisms in soils are just as important as anything else we might have going on at the moment.

As the world’s population grows by roughly 1.1 percent/ 85 million new humans per year, we build more roads, towns, cities, and monstrous new housing estate areas along the coastlines because that is where we Humans prefer to live.

Property developers are always happy because our governments keep giving them permission to drain coastal wetland systems and build new housing estate areas because that’s where the best soil is. They can’t slow down this year because there will be another 85 million new Humans to house next year, but that’s okay because we are Humans, we come first, we do what we want, when we want, and wherever the hell we want.

Once we get rid of all those pesky wetland systems, we gradually dehydrate the landscape, leaving a lot of open bare ground, and the temperature of the once healthy soil rises.

When it rains, healthy soil acts like a sponge, soaking up water, but when we dry it out and keep it at an elevated temperature, we essentially ruin the sponge, and it can’t absorb rain water like it used to.

Soil needs to be cool and loose to hold any water, but we don’t have that anymore; instead, we’ve created dried up/ruined sponge that is now useless when it rains. We have now created a situation in which all rainwater runs downhill, causing flooding and erosion; how awesome is that, go team Humans!

Furthermore, because all of that water ran off instead of being absorbed by the ground, there is now drought, which leads to fires.

If that isn’t enough to get you excited about team Humans, we are now causing the water table to sink and the water quality to deteriorate.

So now we drill deeper and deeper to tap into that troubling low groundwater level and bring it up for crops, only to accelerate and intensify desertification.

We eventually cause the groundwater aquifers to fail, which causes our crops to fail and makes us all very sad.

Not only is ‘Team Humans’ now poorer and hungrier as a result of the lack of crops, but we now have all this open exposed ground along the coastlines where we mostly live.

So all of this ground that we live on is now heating up, forming a high pressure zone above us.

The low pressure system that forms over the oceans as the sun evaporates that water tries to do what it used to do and come inland, allowing the full water cycle to occur, but we humans have messed that up as well.

The Water Cycle is possibly the most important thing on the planet.

We don’t let low pressure systems form over our homes because the high pressure zones we’ve created push that much-needed low pressure air away.

To our surprise, low pressure systems above our heads are required to allow air to rise higher into the atmosphere, where it can cool and condense into clouds.

As the air continues to rise and the pressure continues to fall, the air will cool to the point where it can no longer hold all of the water it contains, and rain will fall.

But, because we Humans don’t want that, we’ve created a situation in which the air pressure on the coastlines constantly builds up, pushing the air down onto the ground, which is why the pressure is higher.

As this air sinks, it warms, allowing it to hold more and more water and preventing moisture from cooling and condensing into raindrops, resulting in no rain.

The full water cycle is our friend, protect it at all costs.

In a full water cycle, water evaporates from the ocean, humidified air is transported inland and then this humid air condenses in clouds and eventually leads to rain.   

In a full water cycle, the rain falls on a rich vegetated ground, the ground is nice and cool, it has opened up pores, so this water then soaks in ground, once that soil is saturated, it can then run off to recharge our rivers, streams, lakes and eventually back to the oceans.  

For the water that soaks into the ground, it can infiltrate down to the groundwater aquifers and it will also be taken in by trees and other plants.

90% of the water taken in by plants will eventually move through it and is evaporated through the leaves, stems and flowers (transpiration)

Say Hello to Agriculture Folks, we could be a little better in this area.

Agriculture has been practised for thousands of years, since the invention of the plough and domesticated animals.

Since that time, we’ve been inventing new and improved tools to remove unwanted vegetation types faster and grow vegetation types we want faster.

Degenerative techniques such as continuous tilling, irresponsible land clearing, a refusal to grow cover crops, and the use of glyphosate leave too much bare ground while also destroying soil structure and generating erosion.

Our actions have resulted in increased soil degradation over time; carbon and water are too frequently released into the atmosphere, causing the soil to dry out and turn to dust.

We no longer have enough healthy soil, trees, and other vegetation to participate in the water cycle as we once did. The world’s once-productive agricultural regions are now gradually transforming into deserts.

We’ve now sadly grown accustomed to ash-covered landscapes that were once lushly vegetated as many areas have dried out.

These areas are now known for the fact that the people who live there are starving, they have no water or food and will eventually have to relocate down the track so that they can do it all over again.

It’s possible that we should consider doing things a little differently one day.  In event, this to me is why desalination plants are so important at the moment.

Can we make the deserts green? Yes, it does appear to be a reality!

The process of converting deserts into lush forests is known as “desert greening,” and it has the potential to help address the world’s water, energy, and food issues.

It covers an area of more than 30 million square kilometres, including semi-arid regions as well as deserts with endless oceans of changing sand dunes.

Water availability is crucial for the greening of deserts.

Deserts can be made green if there is an abundance of water. Water can be obtained in a variety of ways but it’s mostly by collecting rainwater, desalinating it, conserving and reusing it.

Desert greening aims to reclaim portions of desert land, turn them fertile, and use them for farming, forestry, and other ecological purposes like reducing soil erosion, enhancing biodiversity, and inducing rain.

Our planets future depends on our ability to turn dry land into woods, as this will help fight climate change and shield areas from famine and drought.

It is perhaps the most important factor in greening a desert, but as you might imagine, water isn’t the most commonly available resource in desert areas.

Large scale desert greening has the potential to both mitigate climate change and influence local weather patterns, particularly rainfall and you just need a few seeds and a lots of water to get things started.

Desalination plants to the rescue! The related technology has improved immensely.

When salt is mixed with water, it dissolves, and the water breaks the salt down into charged particles that chemically interact with the water.

Salt water is chemically different from drinking water; it’s a completely different solution, not just water with some salt in it, and this is why desalination is a more difficult process than you might think.

Roughly 97% of our planet’s water is found in our oceans and is a salt solution, rendering it unfit for human consumption.

The majority of the world’s fresh water is locked away in glaciers or deep underground, with less than 1% available for human consumption.

Natural desalination of seawater occurs as a result of the water cycle, in which the sun heats the ocean and fresh water evaporates off it before falling back as rain.

Unfortunately, some areas do not receive enough rain for everyone to have access to safe drinking water.

So, what are the options for getting clean drinking water?

Desalination plants are sometimes the only solution for providing drinking water to people who live in water-stressed areas.

Aside from being required to help green the deserts and combat desertification, desalination plants will soon be able to help this planet in ways we could never have imagined back in the 1950s when we built our first one.

So far, the two main types of plants that have been built are thermal desalination and reverse osmosis.

Thermal desalination has been around for a long time and involves boiling salt water and converting it to vapour. The vapour, or steam, is generally free of the salt, minerals, and other contaminants found in saline water. When this vapour condenses, high-purity distilled water is produced.

In the 1960s, reverse osmosis was invented, which simply pressurises the water and forces it through a membrane, causing the water to separate from the salt.

The seawater feed for desalination plants will typically come from either positioning the plants along the coastline or importing the salt water via a pipeline in the case of inland plants.

Most current discussions about desalination plants will most likely revolve around how expensive they are to build. They can range in price from $350 million to a tad over $3 billion.

They consume a significant amount of energy, accounting for one-third to one-half of the total operating costs for producing desalinated water.

Their typical efficiency is 50%; two litres of seawater yield one litre of drinking water and one litre of saline brine by-product/discharge.

Desalination plants are unquestionably important, but it’s what their operators have been doing with the brine by-product/discharge that has most people worried.

3.5grams of salt are typically present in every 100gm solution of seawater, 35 grams of salt per 1 Litre of seawater, or 3.5 percent salinity.

The salinity concentration of brine discharge from desalination plants can range from 50 to 75 g/L, which is sometimes double the salinity of typical seawater.

Because it has a much higher density than seawater, it tends to settle on the sea floor near the brine discharge pipes.

This results in a very salty layer, which can have a negative impact on marine flora and fauna that live on or near the ocean floor.

The salinity of the surrounding seawater changes as a result of the discharged brine by-product, which can harm and potentially kill marine life that cannot tolerate these higher levels of salt.

Furthermore, it reduces the levels of oxygen in seawater near desalination plants, having a significant impact on shellfish, crabs, and other sea creatures, resulting in ecological effects visible throughout the food chain.

Desalination plants use or produce a variety of chemicals, including chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and various anti-scalents, which, when present in high concentrations of the brine discharge, can be extremely harmful to marine life.

The good news is some very smart people have been looking very closely at the saline brine by-product and things are going to change.

Sea4Value brings together 16 partners from Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ukraine, Netherlands, Finland and Switzerland to develop and upscale technologies to sustainably mine raw materials from brines.  

They are mainly focused on separating, concentrating and crystallizing Molybdenum, Magnesium, Scandium, Vanadium, Gallium, Boron, Indium, Lithium, Rubidium and Calcium.

In other news, it was exciting to read about the research being done by the engineers at MIT and the University of South Carolina; they’ve come up with so many uses for the brine discharge that anything other than a zero liquid discharge process for Desalination Plants may now be a waste of money.

In addition to increased freshwater yields, the technologies they developed can produce a variety of relatively simple but highly saleable products from the reject of the process Desalination Plants, such as salt, sodium hydroxide, caustic soda, magnesium hydroxide, and bromine.

Salt is exciting on its own; it is estimated that there are over 14,000 different uses for salt, and the salt industry is thriving; it is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Soaps, rayon, paper, explosive products, dyes, and petroleum products are all made with sodium hydroxide.

It is also useful for cotton fabric processing, metal cleaning and processing, oxide coating, electroplating, and electrolytic extraction. It is commonly found in commercial drain cleaners and oven cleaners.

Another important chemical used by desalination plants and many other industrial processes is hydrochloric acid, which can be easily produced on-site using established chemical processing methods from waste brine.

The chemical can be used to clean desalination plant components, but it is also widely used in chemical production and as a source of hydrogen.

To summarise, the high value of the brine solution may now be the primary reason for constructing a desalination plant, with the much needed clean drinking water considered a very useful by-product.

For the love of coffee and cheesecake
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