The effect of the climate crisis on the provision of clean water around the world is prompting engineers and scientists to come up with some innovative solutions. Using new technologies and sustainable energy, inventors and entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide people in even the most remote regions with access to drinking water. The aim is not only to transport these new solutions into areas that have suffered disasters but also to implement solutions around the world that will help reduce the amount of water that needs to be abstracted from rivers and reservoirs. Many of the newest innovations can literally produce water out of thin air.
It may not seem like it, but there’s more water in the earth’s atmosphere than there is in all the world’s rivers combined. Only 2.5% of the earth’s water is freshwater, and of that, less than 0.5% is found in rivers - our main source of drinking water. With the atmosphere holding 3% of global freshwater, it makes sense to find a way of harvesting it, rather than over-extracting river water to the detriment of wildlife. However, it is only recently that technological advances have made it possible to collect the quantities of water needed for communities to thrive in even the least rainy countries.
Water from air technology is being developed in countries that already have water shortages. Given the amount of flooding the UK has suffered in the past few years, few or no UK engineers are involved in water from air research. But there are already areas of the UK with water stress that will only get worse with climate change, so it could well become a solution to our future problems.
Here are some of the water from air technologies that are already helping tackle water scarcity.
The Cloud Fisher is a type of specially designed net located on high ground that collects water droplets from fog and clouds and channels the water downhill into storage tanks for use by the local community. The Cloud Fisher is different from similar technologies because it can withstand high winds, enabling it to continue collecting water even in adverse conditions.
Engineers in India have developed a way of harvesting water from the air using 100% renewable energy. Uravu Labs was one of the five finalists for the Water Abundance XPRIZE with their invention which they say is “the first-ever 100 percent renewable water technology that is scalable, affordable, and can be used in multiple applications”.
Refugee camps are already benefiting from the WEDEW mobile generator - Wood-to-Energy Deployable Emergency Water. The generator is entirely self-contained in a shipping container, and is heated using wood chips, nutshells and other plant materials. The heat releases water vapour into the air which is captured and condensed by the technology to create drinkable water. The generator is autonomous, which makes it suitable for rapid deployment. And because it is housed in a shipping container, it can be transported anywhere in the world.
In Denver, an area of the US where water is at a premium, solar technology is being used to produce clean drinking water off the grid in a sustainable way. It is being showcased at the Denver Botanic Gardens as a way of irrigating herbs and vegetables for use in the bistro. The same technology is also being used in Australia to create drinking water for patrons of an eco-friendly restaurant.
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