Desalination (and other processes to derive potable water) are expensive and use a great deal of energy. If the process of using graphene can be perfected, the cost of producing potable water will plummet. People will be better off, especially those who live in areas where fresh water is both scarce and under-priced and salt water is plentiful. Here is a recent article about the possibility of using graphene in desalination filters. An excerpt:
Graphene researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for developing the wonder-material.
In addition, the film is super thin — just a single atom thick — so that the water simply "pops through the very, very small holes that we make in the graphene and leaves the salt behind," said Stetson [of Lockheed, which is working on the project].
Lockheed anticipates that their filters will be able to provide clean drinking water "at a fraction of the cost of industry-standard reverse osmosis systems," their press release says. Water-poor regions of the world will be the first to benefit.... Perforene isn't a game-changer, yet. Lockheed is still in the prototype stage. One challenge is figuring out how to scale up production. Graphene is cheap but it's very delicate because of its thinness, also making it difficult to transfer.
There is undoubtedly much to perfect yet, and this announcement from Lockheed may well be unduly premature. But here's hoping. Something like this would really benefit the poor of the world. And it would be a game-saver for Florida, California, Hawaii, and probably the US Southwest, indirectly. Is it real, or will it go the same way as the various attempts to revive the steam automobile?
Addendum: I really doubt that using graphene-based water filters would do much to alleviate the low-water-level problems in the Great Lakes, however.