There are communities on every continent running short of water, according to the United Nations. Unfortunately, although our planet is swathed by oceans and seas, only a tiny fraction of Earth's water - about 2.5% - is fresh, and demand for drinking water is projected to exceed supply by trillions of cubic metres by 2030. Desalination plants, which remove the salt from seawater, could help supply the fresh water needed. However, these plants are considered among the most expensive ways of creating drinking water- as they pump large volumes across membranes at high pressure, which is an extremely energy intensive process. One radical solution could be using floating vessels equipped with desalination systems.
Powered by nuclear reactors, these vessels could travel to islands, or coastlines, struck by drought, bringing with them both clean drinking water and power. "You could have them moving around on an intermittent basis, filling up tanks," says Mikal Bøe, chief executive of Core Power, which has come up with design for this type of desalination plant.
It may sound far-fetched but the US Navy has provided desalination services during disasters in the past, with the help of its nuclear-powered ships, while Russia already has a floating nuclear power station designed to potentially power desalination facilities.