Now that some drought-stricken parts of the country are getting rain, including much of California and Arizona, lots of people think our troubles are over and things are returning to normal. That’s not necessarily the case.
As this blog post from the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association explains in detail, although the recent rains have increased the water in local reservoirs and have given a needed boost to vegetation—greening things up and reducing the risks of wildfire for the time being—“this winter’s rain and snow are merely a few drops in a very large bucket and cannot erase multiple dry years.” Arizona’s drought, AMWUA points out, is about 20 years old, and the last eight years have been especially dry ones. That cycle might reverse soon, as the state’s drought and wet periods tend to run in 20- to 30-year cycles. But in the meantime, conservation is still very much a way of life.
New technology might also help the water situation. Also in Arizona, a startup company called Zero Mass Water has developed a system that pulls water from the air—“distilling the air, if you want to make it sound cute,” the company’s founder says in this article. Roof-mounted solar panels provide power to fans that move the dry desert air across specially engineered material that absorbs whatever water it can from it. (The founder, Cody Friesen, is also an associate professor of materials sciences at Arizona State University.) The material eventually respires water vapor, which is collected in a reservoir for use onsite. Each panel costs about $2,000 and results in about a gallon of water a day, so for most homes—even those with multiple panels in place—it’s just a supplement to the main water source, although a couple of customers are using the panels to fill all their water needs, and the company also has a farm in Scottsdale, AZ, supplied entirely by the system. The panels are being sold in 18 countries so far.
The same article reports on another company, Watergen, that is also supplying technology to pull water from thin air. In a manner similar to a dehumidifier, it chills air to condense the water, then filters it; the company’s device is being used in several locations in Vietnam as well as by the US Army.
Have you had experience with any of these technologies, or are you aware of similar ones? How much impact do you think they could potentially have on our water supply?