Water: Blog Action Day 2010
The theme for the 2010 Blog Action Day is water. Unfortunately I don't have any big ideas to improve the inequality of access to clean water across the planet. However, I do hold out hope for efficiency improvements in industrial processes that use water. Why? Because when given the right incentives and resources, engineers' ingenuity can be channeled to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. Looking for an example? Engineers landed men on the moon and returned them safely to earth over 40 years ago with the computing power of today's digital wrist watches.
Water is fundamental to power generation, whether it's from hydro-electric dams, fossil fuels, or nuclear fission, and it's vital for all nations, whether they be rich, developing, or poor. Also water is a key element in a vast number of industrial processes, such as paper making. Given water's importance, it would be surprising if there wasn't a keen interest in using it more efficiently, and this has only heightened recently in light of global climate change. The warming climate means that once abundant water supplies can no longer be taken for granted.
Bet you've already guessed where this is heading? Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) analysis tools such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) already play an important role in developing products and processes that are dependent on water. CFD is a great tool, though no silver bullet (human ingenuity is still required), to squeeze ever more efficiency out of existing water-based processes by optimizing pumps, turbines, heat exchangers, separators, pipe networks, etc. Also CFD is a prime tool used in the analysis and optimization of alternatives to water intensive power generation, such as wind turbines.
Engineers have the skills and tools (did I mention CFD?) to make a difference in our water-based economy, but it's up to the rest of us to provide the right incentives and resources to help them make it happen.