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The QR of Water

Nathan Grawe
published Apr 15, 2014

The New York Times reports that China is planning a large desalination plant to provide 1 million tons of fresh water to Beijing. The paper cites planners' beliefs that the plant "could account for one-third of the water consumption of Beijing, a city of more than 22 million people." Interestingly, the cost of desalinated water isn't as great as you might expect. The Times estimates a cost of $1.29 per ton or about twice the cost of tap water. (Nice job by the journalist in providing that useful context!)

This is potentially important because we consume a lot of water. The USGS estimates that we in the US use about 400 billion gallons per day. Given that a ton is about 240 gallons, that's over 1.7 billion tons of water. At an added cost of 65 cents per ton that means we save about $1 billion every day we are able to avoid desalination to meet our water needs. But with over 96% of the earth's water accounted for by sea water, it is comforting to know that for a bit less than half the cost of Social Security we could find alternative water sources. Here's hoping it doesn't come to that!

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