Photo: Zero Mass Water

Startups Literally Capture Water Out of Thin Air

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Jul 24, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Former US Congressman Wayne Aspinall of Colorado once said, “In the west, when you touch water, you touch everything.” Water is something that we all need, and something that many scientists increasingly believe is going to be harder to come by as climate change alters where water can be sourced from while an increasing population simultaneously demands more of it.

And it’s not just increased demand that makes water a serious concern for future generations. The World Health Organization estimates that 844 million people around the world currently don’t have access to clean drinking water in their homes or nearby.

Water is a major issue and one that is too often overshadowed by the headline-grabbing environmental stories of political infighting.

But there is hope. Several companies are working to address water by transforming how it is generated and delivered to homes and businesses across the United States. Arizona-based Zero Mass Water is one such business. The company has developed water-generating hydropanels called Source, which pull moisture from the air and convert it into potable water. Its home state of Arizona is a place that could certainly benefit, as more than one-third of the state’s water currently comes from the overworked Colorado River.

The hydro-panels nearly resemble the solar panels you see in solar farms and on rooftops — and they are solar-powered, too. Two panels can produce enough water each month for about four people to drink, bathe, and cook with — about 300 to 600 16-ounce bottles’ worth, according to the company’s website. The panels are self-powered, requiring no electrical input or even pipes, making them ideal for off-grid homes. Their impact is already being felt on the Navajo Nation, where nearly 40 percent of households live without running water. You can also buy them for your home or business.

Finnish startup Solar Water Solutions brings the solar-powered water generation model to oceans. The company produces solar-powered desalination machines that can produce over 10,000 barrels of drinkable water per hour. Water-starved cities and countries in hot coastal climates could employ this technology to reduce dependence on dwindling groundwater supplies, for instance, or fill in the gaps where traditional municipality-managed water services are limited or unavailable. The country has deployed its service in Kenya in the form of a “Solar Water ATM,” which sells clean water directly to citizens using mobile payment systems.

Outside of the private sector and closer to home, the United States is about to pop the cork on a major water conservation victory. Matador reported in June about the US Senate’s passing of the Great American Outdoors Act. The bill has now cleared Congress and is on its way to the White House. President Trump has indicated he will sign it into law, permanently providing annual funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, among other impacts.

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The Independent reported this week on a major development in solar energy. Scientists have found a way to “upconvert” non-visible light into high-energy light, effectively generating solar power from invisible light. This means the solar panels of the future will harvest power from low-energy light even on top of the high-energy, visible light that provides the energy for solar power today.

There are too many nonprofits focused on environmental issues. Because of the sheer quantity of environmental organizations, many aim too broad and as such, won’t have much of an impact. The good news is that a lot of the bigger, established NGOs are doing great things for conservation, animal welfare, and renewable energy. This makes it easier than ever for you to make a difference — either as a financial donor or as a volunteer. Matador Outdoors Editor Noelle Salmi dove deep on the topic.

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