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Lets assume, by the means of some advanced scientific discovery, scientists find a way to teleport simple matter to any part of the world and use this process to teleport fresh water and/or small icebergs anywhere they're needed for drinking water.

Question: Is there enough fresh water in the world that is clearly transportable via matter teleportation that the world's drinking water crisis could be eradicated?

  • Assume that the cost of using such a technology in no way prohibits the use of the technology (e.g., humanitarian organizations could easily raise funds to offset its use for those areas where the local economy cannot support the cost).

  • Assume that teleportation would require practical choices. In other words, whatever is in the water (from the perspective of mass) also teleports. If the water is filled with fish, the fish might not survive the trip, but they'd teleport, too. The practical limitation this creates is that we want to teleport the bulk of water, meaning we can't/won't teleport from aquifers (too high a percentage of rock). That was a long way of saying aquifers shouldn't be part of the equation.

  • Assume we can't manipulate the data stream, meaning we can't teleport sea water and remove the salt before rematerializing the water.

  • Assume we are trying to provide the water needs for every fresh-water consequence: agriculture, animal husbandry, drinking water, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ What drinking water crisis? The current production cost of desalinated sea water is below 0.5 USD per cubic meter, or about 0.05 US cents per liter. Drinking water shortages are a sign of utter incompetence on the part of the planners, not of any actual resource shortage or technical problem. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 25 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Kepotx If water is the only thing that can be teleported then the water crisis is really solved, because you can just teleport sea water and all the salt and other impurities will be left behind so pure distilled water will be what arrives. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Mar 25 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP, Where does it cost that much? and how much does it cost to get that water into central India or Sub-Saharan Africa? Power prices are different in different countries, not everyone has equal access to sea water, the list goes on. The simple fact is some places have a harder time getting clean water than others, a universal solution is a consideration, not necessarily a great one as the causes of the problems differ. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 25 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ Since the discussion has started to deal with economics, the OP should be modified to include the price of teleporting water. If teleportation costs a flat 10 USD per liter, then, no, it's not going to help much. So, what does it cost? It can't be zero, now, can it? Or are the teleporters provided for free by aliens? $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Mar 25 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ @ Mike Scott: that would actually be bad; drinking demineralised water can quickly kill you. you need a certain amount of salts and impurities in your water $\endgroup$ – ThisIsMe Mar 25 at 12:43

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Depends upon what you mean by solving the water crisis and how much it costs, but yes

Let's assume that teleportation is truly cheap. The question then becomes is there enough available fresh water to solve the water crisis.

The Amazon river has a discharge of about 4.8 trillion gallons per day. This is 600 gallons per day for every person assuming a population of 8 billion. A person only needs about 80 gallons per day for personal consumption including all consumption and sanitation purposes. So problem solved.

However, if consider total water usage, industrial and agricultural usage far exceeds residential usage, and 600 gallons per day is not sufficient for all uses. In the US, total water usage is roughly twice 600 gallons/day.

Assuming that you are simply supplementing the existing water supply, adding the Amazon discharge alone puts you in the ballpark of solving the water crisis, including industrial and agricultural use. The Amazon is not the only potential fresh-water source, so assuming teleportation is truly cheap, you could solve the water supply problem for the whole world.

River discharge would still have to be treated to be safe for use. It is possible that even this treatment results in water that is still too expensive for some areas. So, you still need additional funding supporting water use in some areas. It seems likely that charitable sources would supply the deficit considering the large benefit that would occur.

There would also be necessary infra-structure improvements to support dispose of gray-water etc. Again, this can be assumed to be covered by charity or income-transfer from wealthy nations.


To respond to desalination is cheap, what's the issue.

Well, cheap is relative. Wikipedia lists the cost of desalination at USD 0.38/person/day (based on 100 gal water per day)

This is USD 138.7/person/year -- Not too much for a rich country. But there are dozens of countries where annual per capita GDP is less than 1,000. Too much money for them, they are struggling to buy food already.

Desalination would also require lots of energy. Better start building lots of additional power plants (energy is already included in the cost)

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  • $\begingroup$ 80 gallons a day? On backcountry hiking trips, the standard recommendation is 1 gallon a day. $\endgroup$ – Hosch250 Mar 25 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Hosch250 I assume he is including, for bathing, flush able toilets, cooking daily, and all modern amenities. Backcountry hiking that I am used to is all cold camping, dried foods and filtered water so that is unrealistic for the rest of the population. $\endgroup$ – Reed Mar 25 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Hosch250 yes 80 gal/day includes toilets, showers, laundry and other misc. usage. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Mar 25 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean twice 600 gallons/PERSON/day? 1200 gallons a day for all of the US seems pretty low $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Mar 25 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ It should be mentioned that people in the US are not only rich, they also use more water (and pretty much anything really) than almost anyone elsewhere, so those poor countries would need much less water per pop. Also the efficiency of desalination has been going up which means poorer countries see better efficiencies because it became affordable to them later. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 26 at 7:09
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This misses the problem.

The problem is not a shortage of fresh water. The problem is a shortage of purification and delivery. Because you don't normally drink water straight from a well or river. You put it into a water treatment plant and then pump it to residences. A teleporter would help with distribution, but you still have the purification issue.

You've only solved half the problem. And it seems like the easier half. Otherwise there would be lots of communities using existing distribution methods (people carrying jars of water) with better water sources. E.g. a purification plant that distributes water via wagon to large barrels. People get their water from the barrels. People could use communal showers at the purification plant.

Assume that the cost of using such a technology in no way prohibits the use of the technology (e.g., humanitarian organizations could easily raise funds to offset its use for those areas where the local economy cannot support the cost).

It's important to understand what you are saying. This point claims that teleportation is cheaper than distribution via pipes, perhaps a lot cheaper. Cheap enough to put at least three per household: one for drinking; one for bathing; one for flushing (the toilet). Oh, and a fourth for disposing of the toilet contents after flushing. Although...where?

Why not just use one? Because apparently the cost of running pipes is too much (otherwise there'd be no crisis solvable by better distribution). So you have to put a teleporter anywhere you want water to be. And remember that they have no sewage pipes either. Eliminating sewage is at least as big a problem as getting fresh water. And moving it is only a small part of the problem. Cleaning it and rendering it harmless is at least as important if not more so.

In general, when they talk about a water crisis, what they mean is that toilet runoff is entering the water supply. This isn't a shortage issue. There's plenty of water. It's a purification and sanitation issue. Not only the drinking water, but the irrigation water and mud puddle water is potentially contaminated. You fix this with better sanitation more than better distribution.

Figure out a fix for defecation and urination. Then we can start talking about fixing distribution.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is the answer I was going to write. Freshwater is finite. The capacity of water purification of the planet (without human interference) is finite. If you are taking it and just dumping dirt water back, somewhere down the line you are going to teleport dirt water back up. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Mar 25 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Mindwin: "Somewhere down the line you are going to teleport dirt water back up": not really, the Sun does this automatically and for free. Look up, you will see white fluffy clouds on the background of the blue sky. That's water from the ocean, which the Sun has graciously desalinated and pushed up in the air so that it can rain fresh and pure. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 26 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP there is a limit on the amount of water evaporation can purify. Somewhere in the future this capacity will be overwhelmed if the population keeps growing. Also, blatant sarcasm like you did treating me as a toddler that doesn't know the water cycle is against the code of conduct. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Mar 27 at 12:05
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Is there enough fresh water in the world to eradicate the drinking water crisis? Yes, quite obviously

The worldwide total annual extraction of freshwater is somewhere around 4,000 cubic kilometers, of which some 3,000 cubic kilometers get to be used and the rest are wasted. The Amazon, all by itself, discharges annually about 6,500 cubic kilometers of freshwater into the salty Atlantic. One single great river carries into the ocean more freshwater than the entire humanity extracts worldwide.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 and probably the best answer. Really even complications like "what about water treatment" would be made easy with this teleportation trick. There's always been enough water, but getting it into treatment and then back into circulation is the real catch. The Amazon has plenty of water and we could setup treatment plants right there but then how you gonna get it where it needs to be? Teleportation solves that issue. (Assuming, of course, teleportation is basically free.) $\endgroup$ – JamieB Mar 25 at 18:55
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Yes, it will and it will do so much more. If we could simply teleport water from any point to another, there would be no shortage of water. You don't even need to cannibalise the water reserves of water rich countries or the poles, teleport water in from the outer solar system, where it is super abundant. (The moons of Jupiter and Saturn and the planest Uranus and Neptune consist in as large part of water)

Another obvious scarcity it will solve is energy scarcity. Just teleport matter from the lower levels of the sun into a watertank and you have a nearly infinite energy source. (and a nearly infinite source of free weapons of mass destruction)

Even if you teleportation is limited to Earth you can obviously transport fresh water and ice. But you could also teleport hot magma up from the center of the Earth to desalinate sea water via cooking.

EDIT: Some people have brought up the economics of teleporting water. Unless the cost is astronomically high it is irrelevant. Other materials then water (you mentioned any simple form of matter) can be teleported. Just tap the sun or Earths core for energy. Any economic considerations are gone at that point. You got access to nearly infinite free energy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Power-neutral teleport can't teleport uphill. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Mar 25 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua Where did OP say that? $\endgroup$ – TheDyingOfLight Mar 25 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDyingOfLight OP didn't, but physics does. But if you could teleport even only water without expending energy, you've still solved the energy crisis in addition to the water crisis, as you can simply teleport water from downstream of a hydroelectric dam back to the upstream lake. You now have infinite energy. And you can build miniature versions anywhere to provide localized power sources. Note, however, that this won't solve global warming, as you're now creating new energy and releasing it into the environment rather than moving around existing energy. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 25 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab Don't worry about heating up the atmosphere. Higher temperature will emit more infrared to space, limiting the increase to a slightly higher level. However, if teleportation is cheaper than burning fossil fuel, CO2 levels will drop and the atmosphere's infrared will be less insulated against space, so the temperature will eventually drop. $\endgroup$ – toolforger Mar 26 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab Don't worry about the energy loss of teleporting mass up. You can always teleport the same mass down and get even. $\endgroup$ – toolforger Mar 26 at 9:27
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Maybe, depending on how much it costs

It is currently possible to transport water pretty much anywhere on the planet. The trouble comes when you factor in if it is economically feasible to transport the required amount of water to the places it needs to be.

What you need to work out is whether the teleportation of water will make it cheaper to transport water to the places that need it. Presumably teleportation takes power. If it takes a lot of energy, it might be less economically feasible than just building pipelines or driving water tankers (although it might still save on logistics). If it takes a lot less energy then it would certainly help the water crisis.

I expect it would have to be cheap enough for charities to fund it in order to cure the water crisis, as a significant amount of water shortages occur in places with slim-to-nil economic gain so you won't necessarily be able to rely on commercial forces to solve it (at least without significant political pressure).

Same goes for the food crisis by the way.

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Forget the water. Teleport the moogie!

There's plenty of fresh water. The issue is water that's been contaminated by raw sewage from the next village upstream.

Since you've got this teleport capability, simply build primordial sewer systems in every settlement that collect the moogie into a focus chamber.

Teleport the moogie to a very large and modern sewage treatment plant, probably in a reclaimed former desert now agricultural area. Turn the moogie into fertilizer, and the discharge water into field irrigation. Manage runoff so there isn't any (except during the rainy season perhaps). Processed water enters the aquifer and is therein cleansed.

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  • A "crisis" is simply the result of ignoring a problem long enough.

  • Crises cannot be "resolved" by treating their symptoms.

  • Treating the symptoms of a problem rather than attacking its causes makes the problem worse in the long term.

If a land doesn't have sufficient drinking water, that is almost always the result of a large increase in the use or abuse of the resource. A large increase in population or a large increase in what people do with water will create a water shortage. A large increase in sewage or industrial pollution will create a water shortage.

Transporting water, even if by teleportation, would be only a band-aid solution, treating the symptoms but not the underlying causes of the problem.

With the addition of low-cost water, people will not only continue to consume and pollute, they will do it at an even greater rate. You haven't resolved the crisis, you've delayed it and ensured that it will be even more difficult to resolve.

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    $\begingroup$ How the water is deployed and used would greatly impact whether or not it were a 'band aid' solution to a problem - Shipping bottled water in as drinking water to artificially support a growing city in a desertification region would be a band-aid, but shipping irrigation water in to halt and revert desertification could offer long term positive effects. $\endgroup$ – TheLuckless Mar 25 at 15:46
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Yes I also think, like @Ynneadwraith says, it depends on how much it would cost and how efficient this would be, but in general I don't think it would (assuming the laws of thermodynamics still apply and you'd need a huge amount of energy to teleport matter. I'd also imagine that such teleportation facilities would rather be very expensive to build and maintain).

It is already possible to turn sea water into drinkable water. This would be even better in my opinion since we don't need to split the already drinkable water but could access the other 97.5% of water we have on earth. Also teleportation of water/ice would probably have a huge impact on the ecosystem it is taken from. Besides some environmental issues the main reason why reverse osmosis hasn't solved the water problems already is money.

So is cost the reason why desalination isn’t used? Yup. The energy requirements are so high that the cost for a lot of countries is too much.

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  • $\begingroup$ Rowan Jacobsen, Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here, in Scientific American, July 29, 2016. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 25 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Aethenosity Or pipelines.. and yes, you'd still need some form of transportation but then again: is it worth it to teleport? I mean my assumption would be that this magical device can't defy the laws of thermodynamics/physics, so you'd need a huge amount of energy for it which would probably even make the least efficient way to transport liquids more viable than teleportation. And if we assume that it indeed could defy the laws of thermodynamics then we could just stop discussing this topic because then we basically have unlimited everything and in this case it is absolutely viable. $\endgroup$ – Tiwaz Mar 25 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Interesting article, thanks for sharing! But I think the argument is still viable since Isreal isn't exactly a poor country. According to wikipedia "The economy of Israel is advanced by global standards (...) allowing the country to enjoy a higher standard of living than many other Western countries". $\endgroup$ – Tiwaz Mar 25 at 19:06
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Yes. The Antarctic ice sheet contains enough fossilized fresh water to provide each of 6,000,000,000 people with 100 gallons per day of water for tens of thousands of years.

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  • $\begingroup$ the question is: at what cost? What will happen if we remove just 0,1% of that sheet? Or even 0,01%? $\endgroup$ – Ister Mar 27 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Ister -- Removing 0.1% of the ice sheet would raise sea levels by 6 centimeters. If that 0.1% of the ice was taken from high spots, it would be a long time before the area of the ice sheet's area began to have a corresponding shrinkage, so there would not be much effect on the planet's overall albedo. The biggest costs would be the original poster's teleportation system, and melting the ice. $\endgroup$ – Jasper Mar 27 at 15:58
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There is no "drinking water crisis". There are problems of overpopulation, both local and global. Drinking water is purely a local problem, caused when too many people insist on trying to live in locations such as Southern California, where there is not enough water to support their numbers. If a large number of them just moved to say the Pacific Northwest Coast, their water problems would be solved.

There are also problems of pollution & treatment (e.g. Flint, Michigan) which could be fixed by spending money on adequate water distribution systems.

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protected by L.Dutch Mar 26 at 10:24

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