Can Specialty Chemicals and ELNs Help Preserve the World’s Fresh Water Supply?

Digital Solutions, ELN

specialty chemicals
Freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce. The use of specialty chemicals to treat wastewater, agricultural runoff and saltwater is then essential.
Image Source: Flickr user Abspires40

Water is required for the survival of all living organisms on Earth and in particular, the majority of plants and mammals must use fresh water to live. But of all the water on Earth, only approximately three percent is fresh water, a percentage that includes the water frozen in glaciers, the ice and snow present as fresh groundwater and soil moisture, as well as the surface water in lakes, rivers and swamps.

Despite its relative scarcity when compared to salt water, which makes up 97 percent of global water supplies, fresh water is considered a renewable and variable, but ultimately finite natural resource. However, this resource is becoming increasingly limited as the human population requires more fresh water for various uses (i.e. drinking, agriculture, etc.) and climate change seriously impacts available reservoirs. As warned in an article “Water Now More Valuable Than Oil?,” “If global warming continues to melt glaciers in the polar regions, as expected, the supply of freshwater may actually decrease” once the melting glaciers mix with salt water in the oceans and the rising sea levels contaminate freshwater sources along coastal regions.

Beyond the many uses of and demands we’ve placed on the Earth’s water supply, 95 percent of the world’s cities further complicate the situation by dumping raw sewage into fresh water supplies, for example. As fresh water supplies remain static, the human population continues to grow from 6.5 billion people in 2006 to an expected 9.4 billion individuals by 2050. Because of climate change and a myriad of other issues, large parts of the world are also “drying up.” In the 2012 report “National Intelligence Council Water Research,” The Director Environment and Natural Resources stated “During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality or floods- that will risk instability, state failure [and] increase regional tensions. [These tensions] will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely beyond 10 years.”

Though wars for water might be fought further into the future, already places in the U.S.—most specifically California—are experiencing the burden of water stress. Restaurants there have been ordered not to serve water to customers unless asked and sharp restrictions have been placed on landscape watering and agriculture. Is this what the future of water scarcity holds?

Water treatment via the use of specialty chemicals is essential

The use of specialty chemicals to treat water involves many processes that enable used water such as wastewater, agricultural runoff, etc. to be re-used after processing. As demands on our fresh water supplies increase, the use of specialty chemicals in water treatment is a powerful means to decrease our reliance on natural sources of fresh water, while ensuring that human populations have access to this resource.

Unsurprisingly, the processes by which water is repurposed using specialty chemicals are not trivial. Used water must often undergo a number of treatments including solids separation as well as disinfection and coagulation.

In addition to the treatment of previously used water, places such as California that are experiencing severe drought are looking to specialty chemicals as a means to desalinate seawater. As the New York Times reports, “A $1 billion desalination plant to supply booming San Diego County is under construction and due to open as early as November, providing a major test of whether California cities will be able to resort to the ocean to solve their water woes.”

Opportunity among adversity and the use of ELNs to help solve our water crisis

In this milieu of ‘water adversity,’ specialty chemicals companies have an opportunity to focus on water treatment, a market that has increased since 2007. In determining the best chemicals to use, electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) can help companies and researchers continue to innovate as they devise new methods and materials for treating wastewater or desalinating saltwater.

More specifically, ELNs can support the work of scientists at each stage of development including the planning stage, experimental design, recording data, data processing as well as encouraging innovative ideas. As laboratory technology becomes increasingly automated, especially in the specialty chemicals industry, paper laboratory notebooks should be abandoned in favor for ELN options, which have also been shown to increase productivity and collaborative efforts among colleagues.

Given the power of ELNs to revolutionize the work of researchers and the companies they work for, ELNs by extension can help specialty chemicals companies devise ways in which to treat water, ensure its quality and thus decrease our overall reliance on limited freshwater stores. As one author wrote, wars have been fought for oil and fighting another round of battles for water is best avoided if possible. Electronic laboratory notebooks are used by specialists across a number of industries, from petrochemicals to pharmaceuticals, to facilitate the creation of new chemicals and to maintain the integrity of existing ones. Learn how the BIOVIA Notebook can help your company’s efforts by visiting our website today.

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