More and more people lack clean water: Can basic research help?
The world doesn’t lack for big problems to solve — but one of the more pressing problems today is lack of clean water. Significant parts of the world’s population have a hard time getting access to clean water, a situation that will become progressively worse.
We don’t hear much about this problem in developed countries since it primarily affects poorer countries. But we in Norway have an extra responsibility and an extra opportunity to help. We have the advantage of a huge base of knowledge built on decades of research with the oil industry and research on oil-related problems — problems that are similar to the clean water problem facing poorer countries today.
How can we target the knowledge we already have and which is still being created so that people who work directly with water problems can use it? This is where the field of “porous media physics” comes in.
Porous media physics is a young and independent research field, but is growing rapidly. Basic research is often defined as answering questions that are interesting in themselves without any thought of applying the findings. But it turns out when we find answers in this field, the applications also become clear.
That means we can create a link, through basic research, from the oil industry to solving hydrologic problems. I will describe some of the key issues that we are dealing with in the physics of porous media and where we are in terms of creating the link described above.