In 2000, 15 percent of all the water used in the United States was saltwater. While saltwater has limited use for the individual, those in industry have found productive uses for this abundant resource. For instance, most saltwater in industry is used to cool thermoelectric power equipment.
Where We Get It
Most saltwater used in industry is seawater. Factories and plants, usually located along the coast, pump water out of the ocean and circulate it through their systems in order to cool machinery. Not all industries can use it for this purpose because the salt can damage some types of equipment. But because saline water costs nothing and is in abundant supply, it is ideal for cooling thermoelectric equipment that operates around the clock.
According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2000, about 96 percent of all saline water in use in the United states is used to cool thermoelectric power equipment. About 4 percent is used for mining and industrial purposes. Farmers in Colorado also use water that is slightly saline to water crops.
Where It Is Used
It makes sense that coastal states are the ones that make the most use of saline water. In 2000, the state that used the most saltwater was California, which took 20 percent of all the saltwater used nationwide. Florida was second with 19 percent, followed by New York, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.
From 1950 to 1980, the use of saltwater in industry increased dramatically. This is most likely because there were no effective processes to desalinate water on a large scale until after 1950. Today, reverse osmosis appears to be a promising method for water desalinization for human consumption. Reverse osmosis is the same process that is used to turn spring, rain and tap water into commercial drinking water. Another method for purifying water is distillation, which occurs by heating the water until it turns to vapor. These methods aren't widely used as of yet because of their high cost. But the costs are decreasing, ensuring that desalinization through reverse osmosis and distillation will be more common in the future.
Future of Saltwater
As desalinization technology improves, more industries will be able to use seawater for their plant and factory functions. When being used to cool machinery, saline water doesn't need to be completely desalinized, but at least to a point of being relatively low in salinity. In the future, water will also be available in places where water supplies are scarce thanks to desalinization plants.