Water. H2O. The chemical formula is simple. Two atoms of hydrogen H and one atom of oxygen O, held together by covalent bonds, are all it takes to make what is perhaps the most fundamental substance to life on Earth.
Tasteless and odourless. Water is a major component of living organisms.
Our most essential body functions depend on water-based fluids. Plant life also depends on regular supplies of water for their growth. Clearly, water is essential to life, and without it there would be no life.
This means that population densities are much higher where there are plentiful supplies of water. People who do live in desert areas are very few, unless sufficiently abundant sources of water are available that can be brought from outside the arid regions. So, people don’t live in deserts… but cacti and camels do.
People don’t live in Deserts
To survive in deserts, organisms must be able to manage without water for long periods, while minimising water loss from their surfaces. Cacti are very efficient at storing water, and use an extensive network of shallow roots to absorb water or moisture before it has a chance to evaporate into the atmosphere. Their surface layer is exceptionally waterproof. Camels can quickly replace lost water by drinking enormous quantities and store fat reserves in their humps, which in turn can be broken down and released as water.
By comparison, human are not designed to resist such hostile environments. Humans beings (and mammals) sweat in order to cool off and maintain their body temperature to a reasonable level.
Most of the water released by that process comes from their blood. If lost water is not replenished, a major problem ensues: the blood becomes too viscous, and the heart struggles to pump it around the body.
Global Consumption of Water
Global water use has increased over the last century. However, this is not merely due to the increase of the world population, but it depends increasingly on the fact that we now use water in a wide variety of ways.
Water plays an important role in the World economy: it is used as a solvent for a range of chemical substances, and in industrial cooling and transportation. Approximately 70% of the fresh water used by humans goes to agriculture, according to Baroni et al. (2007).
Life in the developed world has become dependent on plentiful supplies of clean water being readily available on tap.
Although access to safe drinking water has much improved over the past decades almost everywhere in the World, one billion people still lack access to safe water and over 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. As a Westerner, this is giving me one heck of a guilty conscience!
A clear correlation exists between access to safe water and GDP (Gross Domestic Product, i.e. the total market value of all final goods and services produced by a nation in any given year) per capita.
A report, published by the 2030 Water Resources Group in 2009, suggests that by the year 2030, water demand will exceed supply by 50% in some developing regions of the World…
Water as a Source of Energy
Water has long been used as a source of renewable mechanical energy to generate electricity. But what if you could actually use it as a fuel?
In 1989, cold fusion gained international media attention after reports by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, two of the world’s most distinguished electrochemists, that their laboratory apparatus had produced an anomalous amount of heat (i.e. “excess heat”), of a magnitude they asserted would defy all explanation, except in terms of nuclear processes. Pons and Fleischmann further reported measuring small amounts of nuclear reaction by-products, including neutrons and tritium. The small tabletop experiment involved electrolysis of heavy water on the surface of a palladium (Pd) electrode.
Many research groups tried to reproduce the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, without success. As a result, the Fleischmann-Pons experiment was discredited at the time, and the reputation of the two scientists suffered greatly.
Today, cold fusion research is hotting up again with several international physics teams detecting that anomalous excess heat is indeed being produced by their independently-run experiments. Research funding is beginning to flow into cold fusion again. This renewed interest into the phenomenon could quite simply lead to the Holy Grail of energy production.