As water scarcity increases, creative solutions are popping up

Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a proposed method of sucking water vapor off the ocean’s surface
The national drought monitor as of 1-11-23. Portions of Eastern NC are under a moderate drought.
The national drought monitor as of 1-11-23. Portions of Eastern NC are under a moderate drought.(WITN Weather)
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:47 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Clean drinking water is becoming a scarcer resource each year as our climate continues to warm. The Western U.S. has been experiencing one of the worst droughts that has lasted for over a decade in some areas. This dry weather has not only caused widespread wildfires, but it’s also affecting the water levels in the Colorado River, one of the main water sources for the southwestern U.S. This is putting more and more strain on farmers and residents of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been working on the water scarcity issue and have come up with a proposed solution: oceanic water vapor.

Like our Bermuda High, an area of high pressure likes to sit off the California/Baja Peninsula...
Like our Bermuda High, an area of high pressure likes to sit off the California/Baja Peninsula coast. This leads to traditionally clearer skies and additional evaporation.(WITN Weather)

The subtropical latitudes of the Pacific Ocean tend to stay clear of cloud cover thanks to the Pacific High Pressure System, similar to the Bermuda High Pressure System that helps steer tropical systems through the summer months. Clearer skies help the evaporation process along as solar radiation has a more consistent path to the ocean’s surface, resulting in higher concentrations of water vapor above these clear air pockets. The team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, lead by Praveen Kumar, executive director at The Prairie Research Institute and professor at the university’s civil and environmental engineering school, has used this to engineer a large scale system that traps evaporated water vapor a few feet off the ocean’s surface.

The proposed water vapor capture system developed by Praveen Kumar and her team at the...
The proposed water vapor capture system developed by Praveen Kumar and her team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.(Praveen Kumar and Nature Scientific Reports)

The proposed device will have fans attached to a collection hood designed to pull moisture laden air off the top few meters of the ocean’s surface. The air then travels through a tube to a cooling structure that converts the water vapor back to water droplets. The whole process is to be powered by sustainable energy sources (i.e. wind, solar). The proposed size of the hood would be about 680 feet wide by 330 feet tall.

Other large water generating devices are already in use around the world. From roof rain catchment systems in Arizona to fog nets in the Sahara Desert, there are obvious and not so obvious solutions to the water problem. This proposed water generation system is certainly a step towards making our drying communities more water secure.