Trillions of gallons leak from aging drinking water systems, further stressing shrinking US cities ( )

For generations, the water infrastructure beneath this southern Alabama city was corroding, cracking and failing — out of sight and seemingly out of mind — as the population shrank and poverty rose. Until it became impossible to ignore.

Last year residents learned a startling truth: Prichard loses over half, sometimes more than 60%, of the drinking water it buys from nearby Mobile, according to a state environmental report that said “the state of disrepair of Prichard’s water lines cannot be overstated.” Residents and experts say it also imposes a crippling financial burden on one of the state’s poorest cities, where more than 30% live in poverty.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation,” said community activist Carletta Davis, recounting how residents have been shocked by monthly water bills totaling hundreds or thousands of dollars. “I see people struggling with whether or not they have to pay their water bills or whether or not they can buy food or whether or not they can get their medicine.”

cmbabul ,

The water wars are coming!

oxjox , avatar

Everything about this story is unacceptable. Everyone should have free and clean drinking water.

But, as soon as the government gives people one of the two most important elements to sustain human life (besides air), then corporations have less reason to turn fossil fuel into (forever)plastic bottles and charge you for their tap water. No one should own water.

I swear, it's only a matter of time before Perri-Air becomes a real thing.

FlyingSquid , avatar

It's going to get so much worse.

According to Colorado State University research, nearly half of the 204 freshwater basins they studied in the United States may not be able to meet the monthly water demand by 2071.

BombOmOm , avatar

Desalination is going to become much more common. One of the main drawbacks is the high power requirements, but, that is increasingly less and less of an issue as we expand the power grid.

girlfreddy OP , avatar

And where are they going to dump all the salt? I mean that would be a shit ton of salt to get rid of.

BombOmOm , avatar

Generally it is re-mixed with seawater on-land and then distributed over a large area of sea.

girlfreddy OP , avatar

The problem is that California alone would be desalinating billions of gallons of seawater per month just to water all the crops ... so way too much to just keep dumping it back into the sea. We'd be killing everything quicker.

Audrey0nne ,

I remembered these articles from a couple years ago but I am having difficulty finding anything more recent. Likely the innovations would put current energy leaders in the difficult position of declining sales so the research was bought out and left to rot.

‘Significant breakthrough’: This new sea salt battery has 4 times the capacity of lithium

Rechargeable Molten Salt Battery Freezes Energy in Place for Long-Term Storage

girlfreddy OP , avatar

Those ideas sound like great solutions to more than a few issues!

FlyingSquid , avatar

In theory, you could also extract valuable minerals and metals from the salt, but you'd still have to get rid of the salt.

Audrey0nne ,

There won’t be a single catch all solution but if we can make it the goal to spread the use and disposal of any harmful byproducts then you’re turning one problem into the solution for many other issues.

Desalinating seawater creates toxic salt, toxic salt could be used on heavy metals to create batteries, salt could also be used to mine for heavy metals for batteries. One couldn’t dream up a best case scenario. If it wasn’t for the fact that it has to generate a profit and not take away from profit streams currently in place, we’d be living in a far better civilization.

FlyingSquid , avatar

If it wasn’t for the fact that it has to generate a profit and not take away from profit streams currently in place, we’d be living in a far better civilization.

But that's a big part of the problem in the first place. It's striving for profit (including crypto, which wastes massive amounts of water) which is using up the water to begin with. Far more than people watering their lawns.

Audrey0nne ,

You’re preaching to the choir, someone called me out for societal despair the other day and it really made me stop and think about how I felt about about it. Dead on the money, despair for society.

catloaf ,

California should also make it significantly more expensive to grow water-inefficient crops. If the water is free, charge for it, if it's subsidized remove the subsidies, if it's already metered increase the cost.

conquer4 ,

Cruise ships already drop about that much in raw sewage, 352 quintillion gallons makes it literally less than a drop in the bucket.

shalafi ,

That's literally more sewage than there is water on the planet.

FlyingSquid , avatar

A much bigger drawback is that it creates a huge amount of toxic brine. You can't put it back in the ocean and increase ocean salinity because that would be an environmental disaster. You have to store it on land. Then you have the same issue as nuclear waste except far, far larger because it's a lot more waste to find a place to store without it getting into the fresh water table or the ocean.

wahming ,

You CAN put it back into the ocean, you just can't do it at a single spot but have to spread it out so the local salinity doesn't go too high. That's simply a matter of building more output pipes, the only obstacle is cost.

LifeOfChance ,

Could we not use the left over salt for the food industry? I genuinely am curious I don't know much about this stuff

wahming ,

You could use some of it, but a desalination plant would produce way more salt than we'd need, by orders of magnitude

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