The desert will bloom.

Comment: I have been involved with reverse osmosis de-salination since I left the government. It was an interest of a former employer. This is not reverse osmosis. IMO this is a major innovation that will open up vast areas without much water to agriculture. pl

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14 Responses to The desert will bloom.

  1. walrus says:

    This is indeed a breakthrough. It needs to be teamed with a simple reliable method of rotation.

    • TTG says:

      This device uses a small DC electric motor, a small solar panel and a 12 volt battery. I’m sure several such desalinators could be run with on motor.

  2. A. Pols says:

    You could buy crude versions of this when I was a kid, for emergency use on boats. It was essentially a sheet of clear plastic that would be tented over over salt water and the resulting evaporite would condense on the walls of the tent and run down to be collected.

    • TTG says:

      Exact same principle. There’s usually a section in every survival manual on constructing a similar device. This particular technology is a simple and efficient implementation of that principle.

  3. TTG says:

    I found a PDF of the original report on this desalinization technology. It’s something I could construct with material I can pick up at Lowes and Harbor Freight. The PDF even has a materials list. The rotating drum is made from a meter square sheet of galvanized metal. The drum is powered by a small electric motor and a small solar panel. You can pick those up at Harbor Freight. I’m sure some local machine shop or fishing village shipyard can come up with other ways to power the drum at the right speed.

    This would be fantastic for small coastal villages or settlements on tidal rivers. Every family could have one or they could be concentrated communally. The prototype produced 3 gallons of fresh water a day. Not enough to make the desert bloom, but that fresh water is enough to family from suffering from dehydration. Maybe it can be scaled up, but these individual units, widely distributed, can be life savers.

    If Melinda Gates or some other obscenely rich person is looking for an easy project with immediately photogenic results, how about putting tens of thousands of these in coastal and riverine villages before Christmas.

  4. Fred says:

    That’s an interesting idea. Where do the discharge the brine? In adition to energy cost that, as I recall, was a major impediment to making desalinization plants at any large scale.

    • TTG says:

      The bottom of the tank has a valve for draining brine. I imagine occasional disassembly and cleaning would be prudent. At the size of these devices, I don’t think it’s much of a problem, unlike the brine problem of massive desalinization plants.

      • Fred says:


        That’s not quite what I mean. The concentrated runoff is going to build up and eventually has to be disposed of or a use found for it.

        • sbin says:

          Small scale can be returned to ocean.
          Large scale needs more careful consideration.
          Living next to the great lakes this is a problem that doesn’t trouble men.
          Fortunately lots of wood available dor winter heating which is a concern.

  5. Deap says:

    Our coastal California community has a large municipal de-sal plant to supplement our drought prone state and local reservoir based water supplies.

    Recently when it needed to be re-activated, local environmentalists brought it to a halt until there was a thorough investigation into protection of the generalized plankton that would be brought into the system from the ocean.

    Review conducted, and desal plant allowed to proceed. Hugely expensive. No plankton was harmed in the process, I guess.

  6. Leith says:

    If there are no heavy metals in the brine (a Big If), in small community systems a diluted brine could be used for raising salt tolerant plants. Yucca, prickly pear, and perhaps some others for edibles. Agave for both your sweet tooth and alcohol cravings. Rugosa roses for the soul.

    Or maybe use lined evaporation ponds.

    • Ken Roberts says:

      Digression – edible salt tolerant plants? Know anything about lima beans? I saw lima beans growing in sand dunes by ocean, central Calif. Never sought further info. Maybe well known? Maybe just a fluke?

      • Deap says:

        Huge lima bean industry in Central Coast California at one time, mainly by Dutch farmers.

        Then tastes after WWII changed and they converted their fields to to flower farming. Imports from South America undercut the flower business and now sadly all those acres and flower producing greenhouses got converted to “cannabis” production.

        So this part of central coast California this is now. the leading pot producing area in the state, if not the nation – all concentrated in one poor county. Pot production has also moved aggressively into the wine producing Santa Ynez Valley and points north.

        Attempts to regulate this industry are failing and bad actors abound, but no worse than the Mexican drug cartels that had already invaded national forest land as well as panga drop-off points along the unprotected sea coast.

        Meanwhile crime, transients and all the attendant cartel turf wars rage around the edges in this locality now, and pot money flows lavishly into local politics and zoning demands. Too bad, because the world needs the sturdy and nutritious lima bean far more than any other local ag product.

        We grow backyard lima beans because they are nearly impossible to find fresh out here. We love them for a white bean tuna Italian salad and lima bean stroganoff with sour cream and bacon. Days of forced downing of WWII succotash are not repeated in this household, but lots of memories of pressure cooker lima beans and ham hocks from those child hood days remain fresh

      • Leith says:

        Wild pea plants grow in the ocean sand dunes here in WA state. I read somewhere that Egyptian wheat is salt tolerant in moderate to high levels.

        But with the heavy metals in the brine, maybe a safer solution is to heavily dilute it with treated water from sewage plants and send it back to the ocean?

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