(UR) The earth’s atmosphere contains just as much water as all our lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, underground well water, and oceans, combined. It’s a veritable Niagara Falls of water that could be used by people living under extreme drought conditions, who have been hit by natural disasters, or who live in remote desert areas, if only we could figure out how to harness it.
A new technology developed by Israeli scientists captures water from the air with 65 percent more efficiency than previous water vapor-collection methods. According to Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor, one billion people worldwide live without clean, safe drinking water, and two billion more live without basic sanitation for the water that is available to them.
The latest technology simply augments ancient fog-harvesting methods. Ways to collect water from atmospheric humidity have been around for more than 2000 years. Air wells can be found in archeological sites in the Middle East and various parts of Europe, and dew ponds along with fog fences were around in the 1400s to collect water, too.
Native Americans once survived long, hot summers in desert areas by collecting dew every night and in the early morning on a hung blanket, before the sun could burn the water away. Once the blanket became saturated, they would wring it out, filter the water, and drink it. This practice would provide enough drinking water for the day.
In ancient castles throughout Europe, you can observe small, oddly shaped buildings with outer walls made of ceramic-like blocks with holes. These were used to collect dew in the mornings. With a cistern inside, the water would drip from the walls and collect in the cistern. Nothing more was needed, except the humidity in the air.
As far back as 586 B.C., you can find sophisticated water collection systems, many of them reliant upon some sort of humidity-collection. The Nabataeans were an ancient people who inhabited northern Arabia and the Southern Levant. They built an impressive trade with surrounding tribes based on their ability to collect water in the desert.
These way-showers also used aqueducts, terraces, dams, cisterns, and reservoirs, as well as methods for harvesting rainwater, flood water, groundwater, and natural springs — but even the water in the air was not wasted.
It should come as no surprise that scientists from a country with a plethora of semi-desert and desert regions might come up with a “liquid-desiccant vapor separation process” that “reduces the energy requirements of atmospheric moisture harvesting.”
In order to obtain 5 to 65 percent energy savings, water vapor is separated from the air prior to its cooling and condensation.
The scientists say that their invention can work under a wide range of environmental conditions, even using low-grade solar heating as a source of energy in the water collection cycle.
Only 0.05 percent of all water is currently available for use for all our needs around the globe — that includes drinking water, agricultural use, and water for sanitation purposes.
Our groundwater is being used much more quickly than it can be replenished due to faulty urban planning and industrial agricultural practices that cause runoff full of pesticides and other toxic chemicals to contaminate fresh drinking water supplies.
Additionally, fewer than 10 countries possess 60 percent of the world’s total available freshwater supply, so creative, affordable ways to generate clean water are needed more than ever for all the others.
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