On October 22, the Skysource/Skywater alliance received the ‘Water Abundance Xprize’ and a reward of $1.5 million for its machine that might extract water from atmospheric moisture. Whereas some information stories claimed that the machine might remedy the world’s water disaster, hydrologists and water conservationists warning that this isn’t a silver bullet resolution.

The atmospheric water generator that received the primary place known as Wooden to Vitality Deployed Water – or WEDEW, and is a system that converts humidity within the air into ingesting water utilizing wooden and different natural sources for energy. It collects no less than 2000 liters of water per day at an working value of lower than 2 cents per liter.

Whereas creating water out of skinny air appears too good to be true, the mechanism is kind of easy.

How one can make it rain in a field

Air-to-water conversion units are principally dew collectors, and work in a approach much like how droplets condense on the bottles of chilly drinks. They use power to keep up a temperature referred to as the dew level at which such condensation of water vapor can happen. Nevertheless the know-how wants some enchancment to make it viable for industrial gross sales to many growing elements of the world.

All finalists within the occasion made comparable units that transformed water vapor into potable water, differing within the quantity of water collected, and the renewable power supply they utilized. These units work due to the massive reservoir of untapped water vapor within the environment. As Swapnil Shrivastav, CEO of Uravu – one of many 5 finalists within the occasion – defined in regards to the idea behind the know-how:

The Earth’s environment incorporates round ten occasions the quantity of water current in all the Earth’s rivers put collectively, 12 quadrillion liters if a quantity is put to it. Along with this ample amount, it’s replenished each 7 to eight days by the pure water cycle of evaporation and condensation.

Hurdles to beat

Whereas some stories claimed that atmospheric water turbines might doubtlessly remedy the worldwide water disaster, the units are environment friendly options to water shortage solely in sure locations, below sure situations.

One essential parameter for these units to operate is relative humidity (RH) which is the fraction of moisture current within the environment to the overall quantity of moisture it may maintain. The significance of RH is acknowledged even by Skywater which notes in its FAQ webpage:

The best relative humidity is between 40% to 100% and temperature between 65F to 105F. The amount of water is predicated upon 80F and 80% RH. Something extra will yield further water manufacturing and something much less can even cut back much less water than the benchmark.

Even Shrivastav famous whereas talking to TNW that the price of operation nonetheless must go down for these units to be commercially viable in lots of rural arid areas of the world. He added that whereas air-water conversion know-how at the moment produced water at working prices of 1.four to 2.1 cents per liter (1-1.5 Rs per liter), desalination – the method of eradicating extra salt and minerals from ocean water – might produce an identical quantity at a lot decrease working prices (5-15 paise per liter) with out contemplating the price of infrastructure and different externalities.

Whereas in landlocked areas, the transportable and modular nature of the atmospheric water turbines appears extra useful than water from desalination, there may very well be cheaper options even in these locations if water was accessible and solely wanted purification.

The air to water converters require 150-170 KWh of power to supply 1000 liters of water (7-10 KWh working for a complete day), whereas in these similar areas Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtration can do the identical at 3-10 KWh.

Not a silver bullet resolution

The thought of utilizing atmospheric water turbines to unravel the worldwide water disaster was additionally challenged by Kimberly Duong, a researcher on city drought administration in UC Irvine. Duong added that there isn’t any one-size-fit-all strategy to fixing water shortage. Chatting with TNW she stated:

I do assume that this know-how might work in particular areas and contexts, comparable to rural areas with comparatively humid climate, low inhabitants density, loads of sunshine, institutional help, and few different options for water provide or water conservation. I don’t assume that this know-how works for densely populated arid city areas with excessive water demand, excessive electrical energy demand, difficult paperwork, and little or no accessible land.

I feel for the latter case (densely populated city areas), water conservation and improved water effectivity is low-hanging fruit that’s already accessible, could be applied in a approach that matches the neighborhood’s context, and is sustainable.

Whereas new know-how to fight water shortage is unquestionably welcome, air-water conversion units should not a magic bullet however one resolution in a listing of various ones which can be getting us nearer to an general resolution.

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