Can We Drink Our Salty Ocean?

Can we use the sea as a source of fresh water?

Joe Shlabotnik , Flickr

An estimated 1.8 billion people will suffer from water scarcity by 2025. Looking for sources of water is becoming important and with oceans containing around 97% of Earth’s water, it would be nice if we could make use of its bounty. The ocean is incredibly salty because the natural erosion of rocks washes salts into the ocean, where they dissolve into the seawater. Humans are very sensitive to the taste of salt and therefore the ocean, even with only an average of 35 parts per thousand of salt, tastes incredibly salty. Even more important is that saltwater contains too much salt for our bodies to handle. Consuming the excess salt causes our bodies to get rid of the extra salt and dehydrate us in the process. By drinking seawater we become more thirsty, not less! Yet if you had your heart set on drinking ocean water there is hope. Desalination plants turn the salty water from the ocean into fresh water. This is an expensive process but it could be helpful in areas that lack fresh water. This system has worked before and the Tampa Bay Desalination facility provides 25 million gallons of drinking water daily and is able to supply 10 percent of the region’s needs for freshwater.