Two of today's most challenging problems are to make renewable energy and fresh water available to all the world's inhabitants and affordable. Both issues are at the forefront of the news - renewable energy due to the very visible effects of climate change driven by carbon dioxide emissions and fresh water due to record breaking droughts around the world. The latter is most visible, at least to Americans, through the plight of California, which is suffering from a fourth year of debilitating drought that has led to the first-ever state-wide mandatory water restrictions. Until recently renewable energy hasn't been a cost competitive option to the burning of fossil fuels. With the dramatic drop in solar and wind power costs over the last several years that dynamic has changed. And while desalination is a logical solution to the water shortage problem given the fact that 97% of the water on earth is captured in the oceans and too salty to drink, it has been an expensive solution. But with today's new economic realities and rapid technological advancements, solar desalination has emerged as a viable concept that can address both issues simultaneously.
Research and development in the field of solar desalination is ongoing at universities and in the private sector. A competition referred to as The Desal Prize was launched in 2013 and concluded in 2015 with the team from MIT winning top honors. Efforts are now underway to implement that technology in developing countries. In California's central valley, which has been hardest hit by the current drought, a pilot solar desal project by Water FX has been successfully tested, and plans are underway to develop a commercial scale plant. And WaterStillar has developed an efficient method to purify water the old fashioned way - using distillation. This product is also targeted for developing countries.