Engineers of the New Millennium: The Global Water Challenge
There are about 326 million cubic miles of water on Earth, but only about three-tenths of one percent of it is fresh water that humans can use. The United States alone consumes about 346 billion gallons of fresh water every day.
Providing clean water is a classic engineering challenge throughout recorded history. The ancient Romans, with their wide networks of aqueducts and plumbing, thought they had it pretty well figured out; today, engineers around the world are tackling the problem in ways the ancients couldn't have imagined. The Global Water Challenge explores how the hunt for water has sparked ingenious feats of engineering, and inspired technologies to help us live sustainably with the water we have. In this program we chronicle how the presence -- or absence -- of water has shaped our history, and how too little and too much of it is radically altering our present and our future.
· High-Tech Toilets: For Americans and many other westerners, flushing the toilet uses up more water than any other activity. What's the state of the art in low-flush toilets or high-tech toilets? We'll talk to someone who's obsessed with toilets and who hopes to make the most extreme, ultra-sustainable toilet.
· Lean about current and future technologies for sustainable water use including the desalination technologies being developed at the Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems at the University of Illinois.
· Farmers in California are turning to new ways to stretch every last drop of water, including smart irrigation controllers that monitor how much water a plant needs and adjust the supply to match.
· The government of Jordan is undertaking a hugely ambitious project to supply its capital of Amman with all the water the perpetually parched city of 3 million could ever need, or at least enough for the next 100 years. The plan calls for a grand feat of engineering: it involves tapping a vast underground aquifer and then transporting the water more than 200 miles. We visit Jordan to find out where the project stands.