I would like to propose being able to transport water at very low cost to any location on our current or near-future Earth. The mechanism of transport is technology based, and results in 100% pure H20 - therefore is instantly potable and both disease and parasite free.

It uses a device at the sending end, and at the receiving end, much like the Stepping Disks used by Larry Niven's Puppeteers in the Ringworld series. The devices are "tuned" to ONLY pass H20 - this is how the water is purified. So the water will be drawn from the Oceans - from a location in international waters - probably the "dead zone" in the Southeast Pacific. The energy requirements are extremely low, and the sending mechanism is very simple and stable. It can run unattended for years if required. It would likely be placed on the Ocean floor.

I am interested in what forms of political opposition will be likely to happen. EG

  • What NGO special interest groups will get in the way?
  • What organisations will attempt to disrupt by force? (Eg Sea Sheppard or other Eco Terrorism outfit)

I am likely to write a story that is very dark and has massive conflict happening over water resource. This gives plenty of opportunity for conspiracy theories, and great big plots that span countries & continents, which probably does make for better reading. This is a big part of why I am asking the question, I would like to see insight into some of the possible things that could go wrong from a Political point of view. Ideally identifying specific organisations that in the opinion of the poster are going to have an issue with the aim of peaceful supply of water will be a massive help. Their objection may not be the peaceful supply of water - rather the means used to obtain it.

I can then do some independent research on those organisations. I am not fully conversant with NGOs outside my own country apart from Sea Shephard - so getting some idea of these would help a fair bit.

It would seem that dark stories are more popular, and at the end of the day - writing stories is about getting readers more than anything else.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Write both stories, and intermix them. The book then has, as one theme that any tech tool can be used for good and for evil. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ 100% pure water is not healthy. It will cause your red blood cells to die. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw i mean, most substances do that. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw -- If you inject it, yes. If you drink a little, it will just mix with whatever you've got in your stomach. If you keep drinking gallons of the stuff, you'll probably end up sick. At 128 dollars a gallon, you'll end up in the poor house before you can drink enough to get sick. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 1:26

5 Answers 5


First, pure H20 is not potable and actually bad for you, normal drinking water is filled with dissolved minerals that are necessary for the body to work. Drinking distilled water can have the opposite effect of leeching you of said minerals when you excrete it.

As for the actual answer:

just about every nation would want this to the point they may even fight over this. But no one would really not want it. Access to useable water is a demand just about everywhere.

The only real potential opposition you would see would come from conservationists and naturalists. If you suddenly start making desert environments farmable you have effectively destroyed an entire biome and its unique ecosystem. No more cacti when trees can grow quicker. This may be mediated by some governments into compromised solutions of small desert preserves but again just about everyone would prefer lush forests to sandy deserts.

Environmentalists would be torn, even though they are destroying deserts. By making more plant sympathetic terrain this actually helps to cool the Earth.

Note: So people seem to be surprised by this notion that pure water can actually be dangerous. So here is a link that hits a lot of key points, its not the most credible looking source but then again you are free to google "health effects of drinking distilled water". But please first educate yourself by searching "water universal solvent".

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a source for the pure water is bad? I would think at worst it would mean you need to eat a little extra. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @notstoreboughtdirt This isn't the most credible looking source but it was the first on the search and hit most the obvious points: mercola.com/article/water/distilled_water.htm just google "health effects of drinking distilled water" $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ skeptics took the question, and the answers are: "the UN published support" above "the math doesn't seem right for well nourished people otherwise using US city water" $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ even skeptics confirmed it. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ The pure water leeching minerals from you has been debunked dozens of times. You get the majority of your minerals from food intake, not water. Your kidneys are perfectly capable of holding onto minerals when maintaining your blood chemistry if you're healthy. $\endgroup$
    – stix
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 19:24

I see another very powerful invention that this can be used for. You have found a way to quickly, cheaply, and in a stable manner create infinite energy.

Moving water is one of the most basic forms of energy creation we know with hydroelectric dams all over the world. Being able to take all the water from the lower point of the dam and send it back up to the top with little energy used would quite literally change the world forever.

While yes your invention was meant to give drinking water to everyone who needs it you also found an end to fossil fuels and coal power and nuclear power. You now have an infinite water wheel that will never stop or slow and can be ramped up and made all over the world to provide infinite energy.

Not instantly but there is no government or company that wouldn't want a private and encapsulated generator that never needs to be refilled and only needs the retinue maintenance of other hydroelectric dams. You would eventually be ending thousands if not millions of jobs of those that work in power plants and oil drilling and coal mining. The internal-combustion car engine would become obsolete as electric cars become cheaper and cheaper being able to be refueled for free. Fuel cell based cars that run on combining hydrogen and oxygen are even easier as you can split your clean water with your infinite energy into the gases for the fuel cells. Growing plants and food is easier as you now have desalinated water everywhere for your plants. Smaller or less developed counties can now have all the electricity they need for warmth or cooling. Not only do we have clean drinking water but now people can refrigerate food and cook it without a problem, which will lessen even more diseases.

This will lead to a world wide golden age as water, food, warmth, and power are almost all limitless. It's a revolution that would change so much for the better so quickly that for your question of which governments would get in the way, well the answer is none. This would solve so many problems that humans have been facing for millennial that there's no reason, besides pure malice, that anyone would oppose your invention. The creator of this device would probably be seen as a savior of mankind.

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    $\begingroup$ nice one...!! And since the water is pure, the turbines in hydroelectri plants will experience next to no wear. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ Its not infinite energy its more an energy multiplier. OP did say the portal requires small amounts of energy (probably a nuclear reactor strapped to it) but your right you could harvest that energy back many times over in hydropower. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Burki No, they would experience lots of wear. Pure water is an effective solvent. Your turbines would be eaten away at over time much like acid. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @anon i am surprised! do you have a source for that? I can't think of a term to goole for $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @anon Sure it takes some energy to get it started but if it takes less energy to move the water than it produces then eventually you would have unlimited. Say have one of these generators powering two of the transporters, then feed one of those transporters into that generator and you now have additional energy output more than any you're putting in. $\endgroup$
    – Virusbomb
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 15:44

Who controls the company who controls this tech will control the world. And some dastardly conglomeration or conglomerations or country will do their utmost to get their dirty paws all over this technology. Consider this: You might think that the technology might only be used to provide water to areas that need it. But a suitably nefarious someone might (whoopsie) "accidentally" remove water from a water-rich environment if they failed to be co-operative.

Even if you can somehow keep your company and technology out of the hands of the bad guys (who are sadly prolific), special interest groups would push their own agendas using the environment, feeding the poor in Africa, saving the giant panda or other convenient excuses to push their agendas. If your company isn't politically savvy it will find itself pushed from pillar to post by everyone and anyone with public or hidden motives.

There would also be repercussions from environmental lobbyists and groups, as this technology would almost certainly change the face of the planet - imagine a green Sahara desert - what would happen to organisms designed to live in its arid environment? What would the impact be on siphoning large volumes of water out of oceans? One might think negligible, considering how much water there is in the oceans, but would the siphoning process be killing aquatic life caught up in the machinery? Would removing even relatively small parts of the ocean change the ocean temperature? I think the environmentalists would have a collective apoplectic fit.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add "terrorists" to the list of bad actors. Decently-sized American cities can require a large river to get enough water; I can only imagine how much water a city with hundreds of millions of people need... but this machine can apparently deliver it. What's to stop someone from installing an "output" into some hidden area in the middle of a city? Such an event would be absolutely devastating. A million people could easily be drowned if the Amazon were to suddenly spring up in NYC, for example. $\endgroup$
    – GrinningX
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ This would have virtually no effect on oceans, well none more than man currently affects them. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 15:06

My answer is specific to the United States political organizations, but other countries would have comparable organizations with similar political interests.

If the technology is able to transport water very cheaply, cheaper than pipes, i.e. imagine every water using/supplying device no longer requires plumbing it just has a water receiver. This could potentially put your company in opposition to every local water utility in the world. Most water utilities are small affairs, but together they have quite a bit of political power. There are a number of nonprofit organizations for water utilities: for example in the U.S. there is the American Water Works Association, the National Association of Water Companies, or the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies to name just a few. If your new water company is going to be in opposition to these groups expect political opposition from the existing suppliers.

In the western United States water is a big deal, large dams have been constructed and Trillions of dollars have been spent to store and allocate water from the large rivers among the western states. Water rights are a big deal. For example the outflow and distribution of the Colorado River is controlled by the Colorado River Compact an agreement between the western states bordering the river on how to distribute and use this water. These agreements are a hot item in politics among the states involved; some states want more water, other states want concessions for providing the water. If your device is going to start altering the field significantly, expect the various state governments to either oppose or support this new technology depending on perceived benefits or losses of power. Also these large water systems are managed federally by the U.S. Department of the Interior, a federal department with a ~$20 Billion annual budget, this technology would vastly decrease their importance and political power, expect opposition.

All of these groups could of course seek to either outlaw, regulate, or control the new technology to varying degrees, depending on benefits to their own political power. For example the Department of the interior may oppose the technology unless it is under their jurisdiction and control.

  • $\begingroup$ This is actually quite helpful - there are reasons why the tech is limited to low numbers - it would not be feasible to have a receiver in every home. It might be feasible to have a receiver in every water utility. That's a great idea - I'll play with that a bit thanks. $\endgroup$
    – kiltannen
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 20:50

Upfront costs per unit

Part of this will be the cost of making a transmitter/receiver pair vs the cost of operating it. If a tranceiver costs $1/square inch to make, then every city water system can abandon it's plumbing infra-structure. Every house has a receiver.

At a somewhat larger cost, cities like Phoenix, AZ that are currently pulling water from 9000 feet below the surface, and dropping the water table by 50 feet per year have a new lease on life.

If a 24" unit costs a billion dollars, then only large corporations and governments can use it.

(One thread that can run through your novel is the impact as the price per unit comes down.)

Operating constraints

Your story will work better if there is a cost. Not financial, but in the form of constraints on its use. Is energy conserved? E.g. if you move water from Los Angeles to Denver, do you have to add energy the equivalent of lifting it up to Denver?

Does the water come out at Denver moving at the velocity of LA? This would allow you to weaponize it. E.g. there is a ~1600mph difference in velocity between Miami and Saigon. This becomes a way to tap energy from the system even if it does conserve energy. You're slowing down the Earth.

Can the system be tuned to handle any pure substance is liquid or gas form? If so, you just replaced all pipelines for everything. Keep filling up the fuel tank of a rocket while it lifts off? Even if you have to pay the energy cost for both the gravitational potential energy and the velocity difference of the rocket, it would still be far cheaper than conventional rockets.

If it's really cheap you can use it as a climate weapon. Make a gate a mile across and put the intake in an antarctic current with the output in the Aegean Sea and ruin the Italian wine crop and air condition Greece. Raise the temperature of the Humbolt current and destroy the anchovy fishery. Drop enough fresh warm water south of Greenland and turn off the gulf stream.

Flood low-lying parts of the Sahara. Evaporation and rainfall makes the areas around the new lakes fertile. This changes the balance of power. It also means the present inhabitants need to learn a new life style.

Build one the size of a 2 inch pipe, and give them away to every poor village.

If tuned to water, what happens if you try to pass an object containing water. E.g. Would a water bottle come out the other side of a transmitter empty, with the contents sent to Lower Goatsbreath, Manitoba? Does this become an instant way to dry food? Does it kill if the transmitter field is aimed at a person, drying them to mummy dust in a split second? Step out of the house, zot the house and kill all the termites. As well as the house plants and the goldfish.

This of course requires that the magic be outside the device.

Just water?

If the units are small and light enough you could cover parts of the Sahara with black plastic. The air underneath gets hot. You can now replace every forced air furnace in the world. Or hot air balloons can stay up indefinitely. (Ok, you need two deserts on opposite sides of the world. Finally: a use for central Australia.)

Tune it to whatever metal. Put the device in the gulf stream the water passes through, the metal goes to the receiver. Tune to CO2, put the receiver 3000 feet underground in a salt water formation, and you take the CO2 out of the ocean. (Ocean holds a LOT more CO2 than the air does.)

If it can be tuned to any one molecule, but others pass through entirely without force, then it can remove that substance from a living person. If you are exposed to Cesium 137 from Fukushima, walk through the screen, and all Cesium 137 (or all cesium?) is removed from you. Run all the top soil through it, and people can come back to the area around Chernobyl.

Only simple molecules -- probably initially. But suppose later you can tune it to a specific protein: One pass through and you get rid of the accumulated protein that may cause Alzheimers. Or the poison in amanita mushrooms. Tune it to plaque in your arteries, and rejuvenate your circulation system. (It's more complicated than this...) Or tune it to a protein found only in Caucasians, and Uganda has the ultimate racial cleansing tool.

Clean up toxic waste sites? Tune to a spectrum of hydrocarbons, and clean up oil spills. Pull asphalt out of highways, turning them back into gravel roads. Separate rebar from concrete. Recycling becomes a series of towers with a chain of tranmitters. The first few pull out heavy metals and volatiles in plastic. Then common metals such as iron. If it can be beamed you could take all the iron out of a skyscraper or a dam. Take out all the aluminum of a plane in flight.

Can it be tuned to individual isotopes? The biggest problem in building an atomic bomb is separating the right isotopes. Disposal of radio waste becomes easier. Separating isotopes for specific medical use becomes easy.

Can you take all the water out of a parcel of air on a scale large enough to create rain shadows? Or put water vapour into a parcel of air for snow making at a ski hill?

Solar system development

Hauling fuel is the biggest cost of moving stuff around the solar system. If it works with ice, you could transport ice from Saturn's rings to the surface of Mars, making that place a lot wetter. Siphon off 99% of Venus's atmosphere and store it on one of Jupiter's moons. Float one tuned to helium in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, and we'd never run out of party balloons. Tune it to Methane put the transmitter on Titan, and the receiver on Mars and crank up Mar's greenhouse effect. Tune it to CO2, and adjust the thermostat on Earth. If we can tune to isotopes, then separating hydrogen from deuterium from tritium becomes trivial.


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