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ScienceNostalgia101

Alternative water infrastructure megathread

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There are a number of things for which "bacteria-laden, but not salty" water are still useful (farming, spraying on forest fires, etc...) and in some places, like California, far more of the state's clean, treated tapwater goes to such uses than to direct ingestion of said water.

 

Conversely, I presume there are things for which saltwater could be useful (bathing, spraying oneself with it as an alternative to air conditioning) that bacteria-laden water would not.

 

So what I'm wondering is... would it be practical to have 2 or 3 different sets of water infrastructure, for 2 or 3 distinct purposes, as an alternative to one single one?

 

For instance, suppose you had a set of germ-water pipelines; a western equivalent of Chinese tapwater, if you will. Now, I don't know whether the energy Chinese people consume on boiling tapwater to kill pathogens outweighs the energy the west uses to purge it of pathogens, but suppose we had a separate set of pipelines for water that does not need to be germ-free, and only needs to be used for farm irrigation or forest fire extinguishing. Here's one proposal on how to go about that. To summarize, you have a concave-up ellipsoid over the intertropical convergence zone to capture rainwater, and create a pressure head from the accumulation of rain, such that the water doesn't need to be pumped vertically upward. The more specific caveat, for the purposes of this thread, is that the pipelines would be attached to sprinklers both in the forest and in the farms, such that they can be opened manually by farmers, or opened automatically by heat like building sprinklers. Is this practical and/or feasible?

 

For another, suppose you had a set of saltwater pipelines, piping raw seawater vertically upward, and filtering it to keep animals out, before distributing it to the masses. Now, to be honest, I'm not sure how clean seawater is, or how small a filter you would need; or whether filtration would even be enough, whether for small animals or for microbes. I know people often swim in it, but I'm not sure whether this leaves people cleaner or less clean. Would it be feasible or practical to have a network of saltwater pipelines, whether filtered or unfiltered, for the purposes of bathing, and/or in spraying oneself to keep cool during warm weather? Would this be more energy-efficient than air conditioning, or less?

Edited by ScienceNostalgia101

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Saltwater corrosion is a problem for your pipes and pumps. Runoff would be a problem. And I don’t know how refreshing it would be after spraying, with the salt residue on your skin.

 

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It is becoming common in Australia for homes to divert "grey" water (pretty much all waste water barring that with faeces and urine) to storage for garden use and sometimes toilet/bathroom flushing, with separate pipework. It does come with potential health risks. I don't expect community infrastructure for that to be widely deployed but I am sure there are people proposing it. Reducing demand for water, especially during periods of drought, makes it worth doing; municipal water supply usage can be tightly capped during dry periods. Although such restrictions can be lifted during times of water abundance.

Salt water would have limited uses and is likely to present difficulties - any that gets into soils will contaminate them and kill plants and soil life and cause corrosion to anything metal; in effect it would need to be managed as if it were toxic. Which, for practical purposes, outside of ocean and salt rich environments, it is.

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The Millmerran Power Plant was built in Queensland in 2002 and should be considered as a Hybrid Energy generation system that moves bituminous coal directly from an open cut deposit via a conveyor belt to heat multiple steam turbines that utilise recycled water. The system then recycles this water continuously after cooling. I went up there in 2004 as a representative of the Australian training company that provided Integen's International learning systems materials (for Steam Turbine Operation, to their US Redbud Power plant in Oklahoma as well, prior to my employment). It was a huge project although the low intensity 'hum' of the turbines and cooling fans goes right through you until you leave the site.

There aren't many problems with the recycled water being used in this way as it had already been treated and this use had much less of a social stigma attached compared to putting it back directly in drinking water systems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millmerran_Power_Station

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