Dying of thirst while surrounded by water is a nightmarish scenario, and until recently, even the most fresh-looking seawater was strictly off-limits for human consumption. Although it may resemble clear and clean potable water, seawater is filled such high levels of salts that the human body is incapable of metabolizing it when ingested, as average ocean saline levels are triple of that normally found the bloodstream. Drinking large quantities of seawater can result in extreme dehydration, leading to seizures, kidney failure and eventually, brain damage and death. Hence, innumerable unlucky mariners have identified with Samuel Coleridge’s famous line of prose, “Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.” However, new filtration technology may make one of the most dreaded seafarer’s deaths a piece of history.
Without the need for a hand pump or electrical unit, the SeaPack Saltwater Desalination Unit is small enough to fit in a life raft, small boat or even backpack, and is capable of processing a life-sustaining half a litre of drinking water within 4 hours. The proprietary filtration system uses sugar syrup to speed the process of forward osmosis, which draws the saline and other minerals in the seawater through the filter membrane, leaving safe drinking water behind. This product is reportedly the first portable osmotic filter for desalinization, and this infant technology is certain to become larger in scale and availability. Portable desalination and filtration systems using this type of filter are currently used by NASA, the US Department of Defence and Coast Guard, and are invaluable in preventing dehydration and the spread of communicable diseases after hurricanes and tropical storms.