Even though humanity is blessed with an abundance of water stretching from our Earthen homeworld to the frigid edges of our solar system, most of it is probably not safe enough to drink without some heavy filtering.
Since most of the water mined will probably be used to quench thirsty plants and trees, it may be wise to simply test the water samples for safety using bacteria and algae (in order to reduce cost).
(Israel 21st Century) Luminescent bacteria glow at night on the beaches in Costa Rica and the Mediterranean Sea. Now an Israeli start-up has developed a novel and economical solution that uses these unusual micro organisms to help keep drinking water clean and safe. [...]
When the bacteria are placed in drinking water that contains harmful chemicals, they glow a warning signal, which can be read by a machine measuring light intensity. [...]
"We can go out to the water source and test on the spot. You will know in 15 minutes - the time it takes for the bacteria and sensors to respond to any number of contaminants in the water. Our system detects them at low concentrations, and very quickly," she explains.
This nifty technique from CheckLight could help future colonists tell whether water is healthy enough for their space crops, as well as for their families to drink.
While these microscopic "friends" would be useful in helping us identify whether space water is safe to consume, scientists may be able to use algae to help them determine what exactly is contaminating their H2O.
(Israel 21st Century) The groundbreaking development by scientists at Bar Ilan University's Faculty of Life Sciences is based on measurements of the level of photosynthesis in aquatic plants and uses a special aquatic microphone to pick up sound waves. [...]
The researchers radiate a green laser beam on the aquatic plant. A plant that hasn't realized its full photosynthesis potential will use part of the laser light, converting it into energy, with the rest being converted into heat. This heat causes the water to expand and therefore produce a change in pressure, which is actually a sound wave that can be picked up by a hydrophone - a special microphone designed for the water. [...]
A plant suffering from lead poisoning, discharged as waste into water sources from battery and paint manufacturing plants, will produce a different resonance to that of a plant suffering from lack of iron, or to that of a healthy plant.
Even though a few species of algae can already be used to help create bio-fuel (which will be useful for human powered rovers), future colonists may want to consider giving these slimy creatures a "second job," as they could help us find ways to purify any toxins in the contaminated water (instead of just simply disposing the water).
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