I'M SOil THIRSTY
Emma Lu, Amanda Kuo
R C Palmer Secondary
Floor Location : M 178 V

As climate change is predicted to increase the severity and frequency of droughts in many parts of the world, water conservation is a growing concern. Currently, more than 168 countries in the world are affected by desertification, the process in which fertile land becomes a desert. Approximately one billion hectares of dryland in Africa are affected and another 1.4 billion hectares in Asia are also affected. It is costing $490 billion USD per year for governments to retain its soil using protective measures and current water retention methods. Additionally, approximately 80% of all fresh water in the world is used for agriculture. With a thirsty world desperate for water, it's vital to find new methods to free up the excessive water used in farming and use it towards people in need.

Water retention is one of the key elements that help reduce the impacts of desertification as well as lessen agricultural water use. By improving water retention, the farm fields can survive through extreme weather caused by climate change. It can allow the soil to absorb enough water during heavier rainfalls and retain it longer during droughts before the next rainfall. As for agriculture, farmers will no longer need to water their crops as much, because enough water is retained for crops to survive. Although the concept seems beneficial, current treatments and methods are expensive and not economically realistic for the coming years. A new solution is desperately needed.

Unlike the expensive and scarce treatments currently used, silica gels, diapers and newspapers pose a plausible solution to the problem. The abundance of the materials allows them to be widely distributed at a relatively low cost. As an example, approximately 34 million tons of newspaper are thrown out each year and is currently taking up around 31% of the total landfill in the world. Additionally, the waste products are also extremely absorbent and can be used as an alternative to the current strategies. If the waste product can provide similar properties as current methods, then it will hugely benefit everyone both economical, as well as environmentally. It will allow farmers to keep their farmland fertile, reduce the effects of desertification, reduce the spending on water the fields as well as lower the costs purchasing on current water retention materials. Environmentally, this is allowing a waste product to become something more useful instead of taking up space in our landfills.

The purpose of this project is to determine whether waste products, such as silica gel, diaper powder as well as newspaper, can be re-used to help with water retention as a low-cost alternative. This will allow these items to be re-used to reduce the impacts of desertification as well as lessen agricultural water use. The properties investigated were permeability, retention, and porosity. An extreme-heat or desert climate simulation test was also conducted to test the quality of soil.