The wonders of water

By: Engr. Edgar Mana-ay

SINCE water is everywhere, it’ a paradox that we feel its scarcity nowadays, and yet we have also taken it for granted.

We can survive without food for months, but we cannot survive without water for a week. We are fortunate that 70 percent of mother earth is covered with water because life without it is impossible. Water has been called the universal solvent. Dirt washes out of clothing; water in our blood carries nutrients to our muscles and transport wastes to our kidneys and out of our bodies via our urine.

The wonders of water and its use never end. Recently, this writer received a flashlight from the U.S., which of course is made in China! The instruction is to remove a white core inside, which is as big as a flashlight battery itself, then immerse it in water, shake it dry, return inside and presto the flashlight will provide light for 300 hours. When the light starts to dim, re-dip it again in water and you have another 300 hours of use. This illustrates one of the many uses of water and this one provides direct current electricity for the flashlight using the so-called water fuel cell technology.

The traditional flashlight uses the traditional dry cell battery, which produces direct current electricity from energy stored exclusively inside the battery. A regular battery holds a closed storage of energy within it, and once this is depleted, the battery must either be discarded or recharged by means of an external supply of electricity, just like the cell phone and the laptop. Charging your cell phone is to drive the electrochemical reaction in reverse direction.

My flashlight uses a fuel cell as it requires external element (water) to produce electricity. Water is composed of Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms.  If there is oxidation of hydrogen atoms as it reacts with the oxygen atoms, electrons are released and flow through an external circuit as an electric current, thus causing the light on my flashlight. That is the basic principle of fuel cells. A series of fuel cells will be required to power an automobile or to light a large building and its economical large scale use will come maybe in less than a hundred years from now when practical advancement is made for the breakdown of H and O from H2O.

While water conservation should be a major concern, let us not lose sight that there are still tremendous underground freshwater resources in this world waiting to be discovered mainly because we don’t have the technology to do it. Discovery of a tremendous almost sea like in size of freshwater under the dessert of Libya through satellite imaging was made in the 1980s under the dictator Khadafi (so far his only and best legacy to the Libyan people).

This ancient groundwater under the Sirt, Kufra, Hamra, and Murzuq basins are stored in 1,500 meters thick of continental sand aquifer formed 25 to 65 million years ago. This paleo groundwater was recharged during a major pluvial period at the time of the last ice age between 14,000 and 38,000 years ago. Called the Great Man-Made River Project (GMRP), water abstracted from 150 deep wells (at 12,000-foot deep each) are delivered to coastal cities such as Tripoli, Tobruk, and Benghazi 600 km away from the dessert source by 6 to 20 ft. (diameter) pipes.

At present, abstraction of 7 million cubic meters per day (cmd), in 50 years, it will only amount to 120 cubic kilometers of water or ONLY 0.3 percent of the total groundwater resource under the scorching dessert sands! Since there is no re-charge, extraction of this groundwater is technically called mining of water but it will take Libya more than 16,000 years to deplete this underground water resource!

There are now surprising discoveries that from 600 ft. to 1,200 ft. beneath the ocean floor, there are gigantic aquifers of relatively freshwater trapped in porous sandstones. Interest on this water resource came about from offshore oil drillers who most often hit freshwater sediments from 600 ft. to 1200 ft. on its way down sometimes up to 16,000 ft. to where the oil deposit is.

This aquifer discovery was made along the shores from Massachusetts to New Jersey extending more or less continuously out about 50 miles to the edge of the continental shelf and may hold at least 700 cubic miles of freshwater. Researchers from Columbian University’s Lamont-Poharty Earth Observatory employed innovative measurements of electromagnetic waves to map the freshwater, which remained invisible to other technologies.

Analysis indicated that the freshwater deposits are not scattered; they are more or less continuous. It is surmised that during the last glacial age when the ice melted, sediments formed huge river deltas on top of the continental shelf and freshwater got trapped there. Later, as sea levels rose, overlying sediments buried such water-laden formation, thus became an aquifer.

In our country, we need not aspire for this high tech water source since we live in the tropics and blessed by excessive rainfall all year round. All we need is the building of more dams and reservoirs to store excess water during rainy season, which becomes useless once it reaches the sea, for use during summer.

Unfortunately even the very laudable proposed Kaliwa Dam project to hold runoff waters from the mountains of Infanta in Quezon and add 600,000 cmd to the very anemic 4 million cmd supply of Metro Manila is being opposed by misguided and moronic activists.

My only objection to this P60-billion project is that it should NOT be awarded to the Chinese! Better to award it to the Americans, our long time and true friends and also more experienced on this type of project.