Pulling Water Out of Thin Air: New Technology Promises Sustainable Hydration to a Parched Planet
Water scarcity threatens billions of people every day. With climate change altering weather patterns, drought and water scarcity will only become more common, affecting nearly everyone on Earth. By 2025, half of the world’s population could face water scarcity. Even the wealthiest countries, like the U.S., are at risk of water scarcity under climate change.
As aquifers dry up and rainfall becomes more intermittent, scientists and world leaders are looking for new ways to collect potable water in the age of climate change. Some scientists have turned to innovation, like those in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. They have begun testing a project that can pull water from the air.
Desalination is one of the more popular solutions to increasing our water supply, but the process is energy-intensive and expensive. A cheaper, faster solution is needed as freshwater supplies are diminishing. The largest producer of desalinated water is in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, which makes more than 1.4 million cubic meters of water each day. Unfortunately, desalination also produces massive amounts of brine, often dumped back into the sea, harming marine life.
The Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) technology from Delaware-based AQUOVUM, Masdar, and Khalifa University of Science and Technology uses renewable energy to pull water out of the air. The creators hope AWG can provide water-scarce locations with an easy way to obtain clean water while running solely on clean energy. Researchers at Khalifa University in Masdar will pilot the AQUOVUM system.
The technology functions similarly to air conditioners and dehumidifiers, which condense water from the air. This AWG technology will then store the water and clean it for human use. AQUOVUM Global claims that the AWG process is more efficient than air conditioners or dehumidifiers and that the technology produces 3.8 liters of water per kilowatt/hour of energy use. However, it is unclear whether there is a limit to the amount of water the AWG can produce in a day, especially in an arid climate like the Middle East.
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The AWG system could be a potential competitor to desalination, especially if it becomes more efficient. The system runs on solar energy, so its carbon footprint is much lower than energy-intensive desalination plants. AQUOVUM has not released information about any negative impacts from the system. The technology is still in early development, so studying efficiency and effects on the surrounding environment is crucial.
Looking forward, the success of the AQUOVUM system could potentially alleviate water scarcity. However, climate change will only exacerbate the water crisis, with increased droughts and floods threatening supplies. Developing more climate-resilient water production is imperative. However, water extraction technologies aren’t a panacea. Climate action such as renewable energy expansion is necessary to avoid further declines in water supplies.
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