The world is awash in seawater that we can’t drink or use for crops. To help people in drought-stricken areas from California to India, new technologies are harnessing the sun to make saltwater drinkable.

MIT researchers recently won an award for their system that can remove salt from 2,100 gallons of water a day. To provide the necessary energy, the team used solar power and so was able to keep operating costs low.

Their system works through a process called electrolysis. Salt in water is made up of positive and negative ions. In the MIT system, the salt water passes between two electrodes with opposite electrical charges and the salt ions are pulled to the sides of the stream, leaving a current of fresh, drinkable water flowing down the middle.

The researchers won the $140,000 Desal Prize for desalination innovations from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The prize money will help the team continue its work, testing the process in 16 villages across India.

A California desalination project Good News Network told you about last year also uses solar power to create fresh water. The WaterFX project doesn’t turn sunlight into electricity, but concentrates the heat of the sun, using solar arrays, to cook the salt right out of the water.

WaterFX officials have promised to cut the cost of desalination in half and the MIT system is nearly twice as efficient as older desalination systems — cleaning 90% of the water it treats. Chemists, engineers and humanitarian groups hail both systems as potential game changers in the effort to bring drinkable water to people around the world.

WaterFX did not return our phone calls when we tried to get an update on their progress.

(READ more from RT News) – Story tip from Michael