Water crisis in Dry Valleys | Teen Ink

Water crisis in Dry Valleys

May 19, 2021
By SalmaHasan18 BRONZE, Greenwich, Connecticut
SalmaHasan18 BRONZE, Greenwich, Connecticut
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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Dry Valleys, Antarctica is located near the South Pole and Antarctica is the Earth’s southernmost continent. Since the Dry Valleys are so cold, the majority of the water there is frozen or completely trapped in glaciers. There are 1000-5000 researchers and scientists living there but they don't have an actual human population. The population hasn’t really impacted the water quantity since the amount was already so little before more researchers arrived. And that’s a big problem, because not only do humans need water for general hydration, but we also use a significant amount of water in order to shower, wash our hands, etc. So it would be extremely difficult and likely impossible to live off such a small amount of water, and the availability of water affects the population by making the population nonexistent except for researchers and scientists.


Dry Valleys has received around 100 millimeters of precipitation per year, all in the form of snow for over a century. Under McMurdo Dry Valleys, there’s a salty aquifer that might support previously unknown microbial ecosystems and have evidence of ancient climate change. They currently get water by using a large and complicated drainage system made of lakes and rivers that has existed across Antarctica for decades. However, there are pros and cons to this solution. The pros are that it has a good amount of water and it’s fairly easy to get water from lakes and rivers, but the cons are that the water is limited and takes long to naturally refill, which can be a serious health crisis.


In a water molecule, there are two oxygen atoms and one hydrogen atom. If you add heat to water, it’ll change from a solid to a liquid, and if you add even more heat, it’ll evaporate into a gas. 

However, heat is not a common resource in such a cold region. Therefore, a practical solution for Dry Valleys’ water crisis would be membrane desalination, and that’s because Antarctica is surrounded by seawater and it would be harder to use heat in such a cold region, explaining our choice of membrane desalination. If you gather ocean water and desalinate it, you’ll have tons of clean freshwater as seawater makes up about 96.5% of the water on Earth, which means there would be a huge amount of water to filter and desalinate, and you’d also end up with lots of sea salt that could be sold in order to pay for the expensive process, which would cost around $2,000 per acre foot of seawater, and if they happened to be in debt at one point, everyone would have a dangerously small amount of water to drink.


To recap, the problem in Dry Valleys, Antarctica is that there is a very small amount of water. So small, in fact, that the limited population only consists of researchers and scientists as the water isn’t enough to hydrate a fairly large population. However, Antarctica is known to be surrounded by an extremely large amount of seawater. Due to this, membrane desalination may be a good option for water filtration in the region. Not only will they have a stable and enormous supply of freshwater, but they can sell the salt leftover from the filtration in order to pay for the desalination plants. Therefore, membrane desalination would be an excellent choice for freshwater supply in Dry Valleys, Antarctica. 


The author's comments:

I want this article to spread awareness about just how limited water can be in certain regions, and I also want it to spread the idea of membrane desalination as an effective solution for water shortages all around the world.


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