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Alaska To Export Billions of Gallons of Water 290

Posted by timothy
from the corn-in-odessa-stomach-in-paris dept.
theodp writes "Newsweek reports on a company called True Alaska Bottling that has purchased the rights to transfer 3 billion gallons of water a year from Sitka, Alaska's bountiful reserves. If all goes according to plan, 80 million gallons of Blue Lake water will soon be siphoned into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai. From there it will be dispersed among several drought-plagued cities throughout the Middle East. Think of it as a proof of concept for turning life's most essential molecule into a global commodity." I'm sure the residents of Saratoga Springs and Perrier (not to mention the island nation of Fiji) can think of some prior art.
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Alaska To Export Billions of Gallons of Water

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  • News For Nerds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @11:44AM (#33852192)

    How is a story about a company exporting water relevant to slashdot or can be considered nerd news? I don't even see any tech angle here.

    And whats up with the quip about prior art? Its not like this is a patent story or anything.

    What a waste of front page space.

    • Re:News For Nerds (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @11:48AM (#33852224)
      The kind of articles I originally signed up at Slashdot for -- kernel news and programming language debates -- are no longer welcome to the newer demographic who just want shiny luxury tech like iPhones, even if they are not Free and are barely hackable. But a story on bottled water being shipped halfway around the world will no doubt spark a discussion of global warming that draws a large crowd. Even as Reddit and Digg have eclipsed Slashdot in many ways, no doubt Taco can still draw in ad money on stories like this.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by metlin (258108)

        I look at it differently. As the Slashdot readers have become older and moved on, so has the content. Sure, Slashdot still covers the uber geeky tech stuff, it also covers a broader variety of topics. Which is rather welcome, I must say.

    • Re:News For Nerds (Score:4, Interesting)

      by digitig (1056110) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:59PM (#33852732)
      But the article does say "Think of it as a proof of concept for turning life's most essential molecule into a global commodity", a concept that Perrier et al have already pretty comprehensively proven.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642)

      I don't even see any tech angle here.

      80 million gallons of Blue Lake water will soon be siphoned into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil

      As far as I know a VLCC has never been repurposed for anything, except maybe as an artificial coral reef. So I guess its a first, at this large scale. An interesting engineering / naval architecture angle, which I guess counts as tech, barely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by turkeyfish (950384)

      If they are good Nerds, then anything must be considered relevant to Slash Dot. After all, aren't the very things all humans depend on for survival not the same for Nerds? How can they insure the integrity of their data if they are deprived of water? It is not possible for long. Hence, the entire set of observations that pertain to water is germane to a properly functioning application and backup management cycle regime bounded by the the permutations of their run time parameters.

      The real questions are n

    • by Gogo0 (877020)

      I'm actually FROM Sitka and I don't see how this story is important.

  • Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @11:46AM (#33852200)

    They're shipping water, not patenting the process of shipping water. Is that all you have to do to get a submission published is say something like "prior art" or "in Soviet Russia, water ships you!"?

    • The submitter mentioned nothing about "prior art", that was all Timothy. I'll admit though, this story is pretty daft. "Water is being shipped to a bottling plant", wow, I think Captain Obvious is the one due some royalties.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)
      Horrible and slanted posting. The problem that has existed for a long time is resource conservation. In older times, people considered metals like gold, silver, and copper as precious resources. With the start of the industrial revolution, it became about crude oil. In the modern era it seems that water is becoming a precious commodity as the world's population begins to grow. The story is that water in a reserve in Alaska is being shipped to the Middle East. There is nothing new about shipping water
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jlarocco (851450)

        The funny thing is, it's not even about the scarcity of water. It's basically a marketing gimmick [truealaskanwater.com].

        If they just wanted water, it would be cheaper to desalinate and purify ocean water. But purified ocean water wouldn't be fresh from an Alaskan glacier, in eco-friendly bottles, constantly kept below 42 degrees.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by UnknowingFool (672806)
          It's very expensive to desalinate water. Of all the methods to purify, it's the most expensive. For the most part the Alaskan is already very pure. If it's cheaper to ship it from Alaska than it is to desalinate, it says a lot about what is considered a resource.
  • or desalinate? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874)

    How can it possibly be cheaper to drive water from Alaska to Bombay, than it would be to fund and build a desalinization plant?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by yariv (1107831)
      Desalination costs are about 0.5$ per cubic meter (0.0019$ per gallon) with modern technology (price should drop with scale, this is estimated current costs in Israel and Singapore). It should definitely be lower than transportation costs for this distance, but maybe they wish to make money with high priced bottled water? If someone RTFA maybe he can answer this...
    • Bombay has no shortage of water, but it is so filthy nobody wants to drink it no matter how well it is cleaned up.
    • by arth1 (260657)

      How can it possibly be cheaper to drive water from Alaska to Bombay, than it would be to fund and build a desalinization plant?

      Now why do you think this has anything to do with what is cheaper, and not what makes the most profit for American corporations and the most kickbacks or campaign contributions to American politicians?

      Of course, a desalination plant would likely be far less polluting too.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Even under the best scenario, this is at best a temporary fix for a permanent problem. Best case scenario, Mumbai is suddenly dependent upon a corporation for what is typically a public service. Around here, it's a public utility that is responsible for providing clean water to household taps.
    • by digitig (1056110) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @01:01PM (#33852740)
      Is this the stuff that Sarah Palin has been drinking? And now they want them drinking it in the Middle East? Just wondrin'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by apoc.famine (621563)
      Short answer: It depends on how much you're importing, and at what rate. Desalination plants are far cheaper in the long run than importing. But they cost a shitload more money up front. If you can't afford the investment, or aren't importing enough water to reach the cost of the investment, it makes sense to import.

      As other posters have pointed out, water is in the range of $1.00-$0.50 US per cubic meter if you desalinate it. 3 billion gallons is only 11 million cubic meters. That's $6-$11 million dollar
  • Shipping it from the Nile would be cheaper. Here would be the modus operandi:

    1: Station a tanker at the mouth of river Nile in Egypt...
    2: Fill it with fresh water
    3: Ship the water to Mumbai as originally planned...
    4: Indians bottle the stuff
    5: Ship to the Mid-east
    6: Pay no US taxes of any sort
    7: Profit!

    Now can someone tell me how this would not work?

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @11:53AM (#33852262) Homepage
    Kindof a weird way to wake up. I have no idea what this is doing on Slashdot. FWIW, I live in Sitka and this 'concept' has been going on for about 10 years. TAB (True Alaska Bottlers - they make yet another plastic bottle filled with water) has only managed to ship a couple of hundred thousand gallons to nowhere in particular. They've done this to fulfill a contract obligation that states they have to do that. They do have potential buyers, but they don't have any way to routinely ship the product. They also don't have any money. They haven't paid a bunch of taxes, nor done a whole bunch of maintenance work on the city owned facility that their contract requires them to do. Can't do everything right, I suppose.

    The big problem that TAB (and everybody else in this business has) is how to ship potable water in bulk. They've talked about converting either a tanker or a general merchant ship to take on the water but haven't been able to find the money. I've heard of standard modal containers outfitted with plastic insets - sounds reasonable as the infrastructure to move them is well developed - but I've yet to see one. It's too warm to freeze the water into an ice cube so that one's out. Ten billion 1 liter plastic bottles would be a bitch to recycle.

    So I don't see this one working out at all. But we've got lots of water. 100+ inches per year falling into steep rugged terrain that just says 'dam me!'.
    • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:06PM (#33852366)

      The big problem that TAB (and everybody else in this business has) is how to ship potable water in bulk.

      I don't see the problem. Just dehydrate it so that it takes up less volume, thus drastically improving efficiency!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        There's prior art for that, too: Google "dehydrated water". There are a scary number of hits.

      • by noidentity (188756) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:22PM (#33854526)

        I don't see the problem. Just dehydrate [the water] so that it takes up less volume, thus drastically improving efficiency!

        Indeed. You could take this gaseous dehydrated form and simply let it float through the air to its destination, and then find some way of re-hydrating it there. Maybe if you put small particles in the air, it would precipitate and perhaps even just fall out of the sky. Just an idea though, haven't worked out all the kinks.

    • I used to live in Sitka as well... Interesting about TAB... so they're basically saying, of their taxes, etc, "just put it on our tab"? *ba da dum bam* Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314)

      I've heard of standard modal containers outfitted with plastic insets - sounds reasonable as the infrastructure to move them is well developed - but I've yet to see one.

      'Containers' that consist of a cylindrical steel tank with a container-shaped frame around them are common enough. Plastic insets are also available from e.g. SAI [saifreight.com].
      That would leave you with 25-ton units which have to be unloaded one at a time, but would fit in standardized distribution channels. A tanker would be cheaper and faster to load and unload, but requires dedicated infrastructure.

    • by lxs (131946)

      Fresh water floats in sea water, so you fill a big rubber bag with the stuff and tow that to the other end of the planet if that's what floats your boat so to speak.

      Now why you'd want to do that is an entirely different matter.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @11:53AM (#33852268)
    we should trade them barrel for barrel, = a barrel of water for a barrel of oil.
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Yeah, well, you better clean those barrels between each trip.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tverbeek (457094)

        Not a problem. They said on Fox News that oil and water don't mix, so there wouldn't be any trouble with one contaminating the other.

    • by Bartab (233395)

      You understand that a barrel of water costs more than a barrel of oil, right?

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:57PM (#33852722) Homepage

    Rampant fresh-water polution in the ocean - an ecological disaster!

    ( :-P )

  • Anybody know why this tech [sarasvatiproject.com] isn't getting used in the Middle East?

    Seems it would solve several problems at once, generate water for drinking/irrigation and electrical energy at the same time.
  • Living in Southern California I've often thought of ways to steal other regions' water. It seems the nation could benefit from some sort of massive water redistribution infrastructure. One way to do it cheaply without negotiating right-of-ways would be an undersea pipeline system of flexible, armored piping.

    Also - why use a tanker ship? Couldn't you construct a giant bag of water and just drag it with a tug-like vessel?

    • The giant bag will probably have more drag than the ship. Also, the pipeline idea was seriously discussed in the late 80s or early 90s.
    • > Also - why use a tanker ship? Couldn't you construct a giant bag of water and just drag it with a tug-like vessel?

      Far too risky. You saw what happened when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. Can you imagine what would happen if your giant bag of water got snagged on a big sea branch??!

  • Great, more landfill (Score:5, Interesting)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @01:21PM (#33852902)
    It's not like they're shipping the water to the existing municipal water infrastructure... they're sending it to a bottling plant, which, besides being costly for consumers and inefficient, means more plastic waste pollution.
  • You have to put the salt somewhere. Some plants currently in operation dump it back into the ocean, leading to local dead zones as few if any oceanic life forms can tolerate a sudden massive increase in salinity.

  • This is scary. I am so dead set against the commoditization of water. Water is essential for all life and should not be commoditized. If this is the direction we are headed in, man-kind is doomed.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Water is essential for all life and should not be commoditized. If this is the direction we are headed in, man-kind is doomed."

      Don't confuse the doom of the weak with the doom of all. Nature doesn't.

  • Everybody is talking about this like it's boring news and not really a big deal. I'm surprised the normally 'environmentally conscious' quasi-nerd-activist slashdot community isn't talking about the ramifications of this project.

    Private ownership of water by large companies is going to be the cause of global wars, and already is in many water-deficient countries. When you give a private company the right to treat water as a commodity and own it, you create a monster. This is the basis for a very disturbi

  • by dcw3 (649211) on Monday October 11, 2010 @08:40AM (#33858226) Journal

    This quote from the late great Sam Kinison seems appropriate:

    “I’m like anyone else on this planet — I’m very moved by world hunger. I see the same commercials, with those little kids, starving, and very depressed. I watch those kids and I go, ‘F–k, I know the FILM crew could give this kid a sandwich!’ There’s a director five feet away going, ‘DON’T FEED HIM YET! GET THAT SANDWICH OUTTA HERE! IT DOESN’T WORK UNLESS HE LOOKS HUNGRY!!!’ But I’m not trying to make fun of world hunger. Matter of fact, I think I have the answer. You want to stop world hunger? Stop sending these people food. Don’t send these people another bite, folks. You want to send them something, you want to help? Send them U-Hauls. Send them U-Hauls, some luggage, send them a guy out there who says, ‘Hey, we been driving out here every day with your food, for, like, the last thirty or forty years, and we were driving out here today across the desert, and it occurred to us that there wouldn’t BE world hunger, if you people would LIVE WHERE THE FOOD IS! YOU LIVE IN A DESERT! YOU LIVE IN A F–KING DESERT! NOTHING GROWS OUT HERE! NOTHING’S GONNA GROW OUT HERE! YOU SEE THIS? HUH? THIS IS SAND. KNOW WHAT IT’S GONNA BE A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW? IT’S GONNA BE SAND! YOU LIVE IN A F–KING DESERT! GET YOUR STUFF, GET YOUR SHIT, WE’LL MAKE ONE TRIP, WE’LL TAKE YOU TO WHERE THE FOOD IS! WE HAVE DESERTS IN AMERICA — WE JUST DON’T LIVE IN THEM, A–HOLES!”

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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