According to the World Resources Institute, nearly one-quarter of the world’s population faces water scarcity issues. An area where this issue is visibly apparent is in Chennai India where it is common to see families waiting in line to receive five buckets of clean water for drinking and washing.
In Cape Town South Africa a similar situation has arisen. The city, responsible for 9.9% of South Africa's GDP, is expected to be completely dry in the coming year. When this occurs Cape Town will be the first major modern city to run out of water. Many experts believe Cape Town will not be a one-off case and that other major cities around the world will experience the same Day Zero event.
These global water scarcity issues should be concerning for everyone. Here we will look at the major causes of water scarcity as well as how a new technology, called Atmospheric Water Generation, is positioned to be the solution to this crisis.
What Is Causing Water Scarcity
In some areas there simply is not enough rainfall to maintain a sufficient water supply. This is especially true if the area does not have underground wells or springs from which to draw fresh water. What little water does fall is being consumed in greater amounts due to the increasing human population and industrialization. This can be especially damaging in areas where the inhabitants receive little or no water usage education. Like everywhere, water wastage is a major issue but it can be seen, and felt, more acutely in areas that receive low amounts of rainfall.
The other major cause of water scarcity is the pollution of local water sources. Many areas around the world have poisoned their rivers and lakes due to poor industrial practices. This is especially true in old mining communities. Although regulations are improving, for many years mining companies would leave an area once all the economically mineable resources were gone, taking little care to mitigate any environmental damages caused as a result.
The most common cause of freshwater pollution around the world is agriculture. Agricultural runoff, containing pesticides and fertilizers, makes its way into the local rivers, streams, and lakes, essentially poisoning the water and making it undrinkable.
What Is Atmospheric Water Generation Technology
The basic premise of Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) technology is the production of water by pulling moisture out of the surrounding air. An AWG machine cools the air below its dew point then, by putting the air under pressure, it extracts the ambient moisture from the air as potable water. In many ways, it is similar to a dehumidifier but instead, it produces drinkable water. AWG technology works best in warmer climates where the air contains a level of humidity. It does not work particularly well in cold climates. Luckily, the areas with the largest water shortage problems are primarily located in hot, humid, climates.
Who Can Benefit From Atmospheric Water Generation Technology
AWG allows people who are facing water shortages, either natural or man-caused, to lessen or altogether solve their water supply issues. This technology is particularly exciting because of the low build cost and parts availability. Many areas do not have the money to invest in a state of the art water treatment plant but can build and produce AWG devices. This is especially true for areas whose freshwater supply has been polluted beyond repair or an area dominated by agricultural activities.
Another commonly overlooked aspect is that those families or individuals who possess an AWG machine do not need to keep stored water on hand. The machine produces water on demand, thus minimizing the need for plastic storage containers that eventually find their way into a landfill or river bed. It also allows for a level of dependence that one would otherwise not have. All those people in Chennai or Cape Town who are lined up around the block to receive their daily water are under the tutelage of someone else. There is no telling if there will always be a water truck coming to deliver water. A day or two without water in some of these hot, humid, climates can be very difficult and potentially life-threatening.
As we have seen, AWG technology is a suitable solution for those facing water scarcity issues. The issues facing the implementation of this technology has to do with logistics and awareness and not the legitimacy of the technology itself.