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Can't We Drink Seawater?

By NighatPublished 7 months ago 7 min read

When we look at our planet from space

one color dominates that's why Earth is

called the Blue Planet about three

quarters of our world is covered with

water but there's a catch

96.5 percent of this water is trapped in

the oceans and if you remember the first

time your parents took you to the

seaside drinking that water is a big

No-No so why is ocean water salty and


there are two main reasons the first is

run off water from the land rain water

is slightly acidic its pH factor is

somewhere between five and five and a

half for comparison pure water has a pH

factor of seven and the acid we find in

batteries is a bit more than zero such

rain erodes rocks when it falls on the

ground this releases ions such as sodium

and chloride they end up in rivers and

streams that eventually empty into the

ocean living organisms remove some of

the good ions but the rest remains over

time this increases their concentration

in the water

oceans have their own salt Powerhouse

vents in the sea floor let out a

hydrothermal fluid sounds complicated

but it's easy to understand water seeps

down the gaps on the ocean floor then

the magma from the Earth's core heats up

the water there is a chemical reaction

that frees seawater from oxygen it picks

up Metals such as iron and zinc the

vents on the sea floor release this

metallic water back into the ocean

during an underwater volcanic eruption

the process speeds up salt and other

minerals are directly released into

Earth's oceans over time Salt

accumulates on the sea floor and forms

domes these deposits occur under dry

land as well

some places on the globe have a large

number of salt domes the Gulf of Mexico

is just one example beneath the waves

they affect the salinity of water other

factors that determine how salty a body

of water is include evaporation air

temperature and precipitation

the general rule is that salinity is low

near the equator and at the poles all

the oceans and seas in between are

likely to have high salinity

scientists estimate that dissolved salts

make up three and a half percent of the

weight of the world's seawater

the waters that empty into the ocean

such as lakes and rivers are fresh water

so why is the sea water salty to answer

this question we must travel into our

planet's past

researchers believe that primeval Seas

weren't as salty as they are today but

over time rainfall washed away the rocks

on land transporting vast amounts of

salt into the oceans the process has

been going on for more than 3.8 billion

years today some 4 billion tons of

dissolved salts end up in Earth's oceans

every year the input and output of salt

are fairly balanced this means that

seawater's salinity is stable

so why can't we drink seawater we

already take salt into our bodies with

food and drinks it is called dietary

salt the World Health Organization

recommends that humans consume no more

than a teaspoon per person per day you

shouldn't go over that amount if you

want to keep your heart healthy

centuries ago salted beef and pork were

the standard diet of seafarers meat was

preserved using salt at Sea fresh fruit

and vegetables would go bad after just a

couple of weeks before Refrigeration

this was the only way to keep fresh

pickling was another option for storing


the reason why we can't drink seawater

is the salt content the percentage of

this mineral in our blood is nearly four

times lower than the percentage of salt

in seawater our bodies simply cannot

process such a high amount of the

substance when we intake salt as part of

our diet we also drink liquids when you

serve pretzels you probably have a glass

of water or juice nearby it helps quench

The Thirst and keep the salt levels in

check if we drink water straight from

the ocean the exact opposite happens we

just become thirstier

our body absorbs both water and salt

they end up in our bloodstream the

organs responsible for getting all this

salt out of our blood are the kidneys

but they need water to perform their


the higher the salt content the more

water they need to wash it away when the

process repeats itself several times

over you become dehydrated

this is the process of losing water from

the body and there's another catch you

start releasing more water than you take

in when you drink seawater the

difference leaves you thirstier than you

were when you started drinking seawater

not a good idea to begin with

but submarine mammals such as whales

seals and even seagulls can drink water

from the sea just like we drink tap


kidneys of these mammals are super

efficient birds have special glands in

their beaks that prevent salt from

getting inside their bloodstream

scientists found that the only land

animal that can drink sea water is the

camel and if you ever wondered if fish

drank sea water they do

the gills and kidneys help them pump out

the excess salt

for humans to drink ocean water it first

needs to go through desalinization this

is the process of removing salt from

seawater and there's a lot of it to take


estimates show that if we laid out all

the sea salt across Earth's land mass it

would be higher than the Statue of

Liberty that's why desalinization on a

global scale isn't realistic right now

less than half a percent of the drinking

water we produce comes from seawater and

the demand for potable water is only

going to increase the current rate of

consumption means that the demand for

fresh water doubles every 20 years

the biggest issue with desalinization is

the energy cost it takes 10 times more

energy than other Water Production

methods and the carbon footprint is huge

large desalinization plants often need

to have their own power stations this is

all because of the technology behind the

process salt dissolves easily in water

it creates a strong chemical bond with

water that is hard to break

desalinization facilities mostly use

reverse osmosis to achieve this large

pumps exert pressure on seawater to push

it through a filter its membrane is so

fine that each pore is a fraction of the

size of a human hair the filter allows

for water molecules to pass larger salt

molecules remain Trapped In The Membrane

for every quarter of a gallon of fresh

water the plant generates through

desalinization there is the same amount

of water that is now twice as salty

hardly the ideal method of water


the idea that humans could drink sea

water isn't new in the mid 4th Century

BCE the famous Greek philosopher

Aristotle considered using a series of

filters to remove salt from water ships

in the 16th century had small portable

distilleries that could boil sea water

this was merely Patchwork since exposing

seawater to high temperatures doesn't

make it drinkable such thermal

processing only sterilizes the water you

would need to catch the steam that

evaporates and wait for it to cool down

before it's safe to drink this is a

complex and time-consuming method that

is probably not worth the effort

let us imagine for a second that we got

rid of all the salt from the Earth's

oceans we would get an endless supply of

drinking water but at what cost there

are millions of animal and plant species

that are adapted to salt water these

include Plankton the basis of all marine

life they wouldn't have enough time to

adapt to the new conditions not all fish

are like the salmon which thrives both

in fresh and salt water

the sudden switch would also have a

profound effect on our planet since

fresh water is less dense it would

immediately cause the ice cap in the

Arctic to sink by four inches this would

trigger the largest tidal wave the

planet has ever seen although the idea

of desalinization on a global scale

sounds good on paper we should take it

with a grain of salt.


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  • Alex H Mittelman 7 months ago

    Very interesting! Fantastic!

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