Help Solve a Water Problem

With blogs, twitter, and e-mail, it's pretty rare these days that I get a phone call from a reader. But yesterday I heard from an ACS member who has a sort of meta-problem. That is, he hopes to get some outside thinking to help him define his problem, as well as to point him in new directions for possible solutions. Here's the problem:
Fresh water is a scarce commodity in many places on the planet. Several dry-arid environments have industrial operations producing excess amounts of water. That water contains excess salts, boron, ammonia, silica, and other minerals. Current operational strategy is to inject the water into below-ground natural reservoir space but that option may be limited in the future. Alternatives to disposal revolve around traditional approaches to recycle or reuse that water but I’m seeking new thinking and brainstorming of even better ways to use, recycle, and/or a novel alternative scenario for the water.
With the drought in California, and the tightening of restrictions for industry's use of water, this type of problem seems likely to pop up more and more frequently, though the specific quality issues vary from industry to industry. Please send your thoughts and insights to peter.vanvoris AT att DOT net  Or feel free to hash out your thoughts, questions, or ideas in the comments section below. Once the problem has been looked at from several angles and better defined, it may appear on crowdsourcing websites like Innocentive.   And if you need a little clean water inspiration, you can read this week's C&EN story on Beefed-up bacteria that get the lead out of water Or a 2012 story on Treating Water From Hydraulic Fracturing Or you can check out the website of Simbol Materials, which is scaling up its technology to mine hydrothermal brines for lithium, manganese, zinc, and potassium.  

Author: Melody Bomgardner

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