breakthWhat happened to the water?
Breakthrough: Episode Six - Water Apocalypse
Director/Narrator: Angela Bassett
Interviews with Sandra Postel, Aaron Mandell and Arturo Vittori
Running Length: 45 Minutes
No Rating given but could be PG
Looking at Earth from space, it could be called a water planet. However, not much of the water, either above or below ground, is drinkable. Not only that, but the world population is rapidly increasing and the demand for water is, also. There may come a time when people outpace the amount of water they need  Bad water also aids in the carrying of disease. What to do?
This is the premise of the last episode of “Breakthrough”  It begins with Angela Bassett walking along a dry riverbed in California, and carrying a parasol to shield her from the sun. There is a drought here, wells are running dry and people routinely have to walk 1 ½ miles to shower or have large containers in their homes to contain water delivered to them.
What happened to the water? Farming takes 80% from the aquifer (natural underground water supply) and it takes way over $100,000 to dig a well, hoping one finds water and it remains in the well. Walnut orchards in the area consume 23,000,000 gallons of water a year just to keep producing nuts.
Aaron Mandell has an idea to desalinate the sub-surface water, using high pressure steam and have a sustainable supply. Another part of the world, Australia to be exact, has been using something akin to this since 2010. The coast of western Australia was hit by a drought called “The Big Dry,” from 1996-2010.  They desalinated sea water using the action of waves to create energy, plus membrane filters. It works. 97% of the Earth’s water is salty, with 2% being snow and ice, which ends up with 1% being usable water.
Ethiopia is another region of the world in need of water.  In a small village, Arturo Vitton, who built several examples of his invention in Italy, comes to Ethiopia to build an experimental prototype. It looks like a tower with a web around it and works on the condensation principle.  It is sustainable since this part of the world is hilly, foggy and plenty of air moisture. It this works for the village, it will relieve people of walking six hours a day---every day---too bring water to their families.
What caught my attention, was with these ideas to help people have drinkable water, the idea of Australia being an island in the ocean---water all around---and still having to go through quite a process to obtain drinking water. After fourteen years of drought, something had to be done.
Water conservation is starting to be as much a part of daily life as breathing. Water is essential to the human body, and if water goes, we go…unless there is an alternative. Makes you wonder what people thought in Australia as their wells dried up. That last drop of water from a faucet would be the last for years and years. All of those underground pipes and nothing flowing through them.
Production values and soundtrack are first rate.
“Breakthrough” is a six-part weekly series on The National Geographic Channel, Sunday evenings, that began  November 1, 2015 and will end December 13, 2015.  This will be shown in 440 million homes, 171 countries and in 45 languages. Each episode is on a separate breakthrough in the science and health community. The first episode was “Fighting Pandemics,” and the second, “More Than Human” on robotics. Episode Three was “Decoding The Brain” with Episode Four on The Age of Aging.”  Episode V was called “Energy From The Edge” for December 6, 2015, and the last episode of the series on December 13, 2016 is called “Water Apocalypse.”
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner