An MIT startup has developed a prize-winning system that captures fresh water from the vapor plumes of power plants. Such efficient and low-cost water-capture technology could help parched cities tackle water scarcity.

During the 2012-2017 drought, California went through one of the driest periods of its history. The LA water crisis left the city dangerously low on potable water.

We have to go back at least 1200 years to find a period where the state experienced a similar combined effect of extreme temperatures and lack of rainfall.

Last year, the Government of California officially declared an end to the LA water crisis and lifted some of the most stringent rules on water use.

A new LA water crisis can be forthcoming, and the state government wants to be prepared.

On May 31, Governor Jerry Brown approved two bills (SB 606 and AB 1668) that set water-efficiency goals by placing permanent restrictions on the amount of water Californians can use per day.

Starting from 2022, the new regulations give state residents an allowance of 55 gallons of water per person per day for indoor use, and the amount will drop to 50 gallons by 2030.

Some resources have interpreted the new water use legislation that Californians won’t be able to shower and do laundry in the same day. This, naturally, is an over-exaggeration of the legislation and can largely be ignored.

Fake news or not, drought or not, California’s water woes, however, are far from being over.

As climate change weighs more and more heavily on freshwater ecosystems worldwide, there’s an urgent need to find new ways to face the water crisis.

Read More: Ancient Water Purifying Technology Increases Efficiency in the Present

Power Plants as a New Source of Potable Water

Nuclear, fossil fuel, and biomass power plants usually use fresh water from rivers, lakes, or the ocean for cooling purposes.

Climate change is now posing a big challenge for power plants.

Because of the rising temperature of water in nature coupled with the decline in river flows, power plants can be forced to cut back on production or even temporarily shut down their reactors.

To meet their considerable cooling needs, power plants in the U.S. use 161 billion gallons per day (2010 stats), which makes up to 39 percent of total freshwater withdrawals in the country.

Researchers at Infinite Cooling Inc., an energy startup founded at MIT, have developed a device that captures fresh water from the cooling towers of power plants.

“When air that’s rich in fog is zapped with a beam of electrically charged particles, known as ions, water droplets become electrically charged and thus can be drawn toward a mesh of wires, similar to a window screen, placed in their path. The droplets then collect on that mesh, drain down into a collecting pan, and can be reused in the power plant or sent to a city’s water supply system.”

The system, which has won the startup MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition last month, reduces water consumption of power plants by up to 30 percent.

This amounts to 150 million gallons of water per year for a 600-megawatt power plant.

Infinite Cooling’s also promises that power facilities equipped with its technology will eliminate vapor plumes by 100 percent and make big savings in water treatment costs.

A paper on the patent-pending technology was published in the journal Science Advances.

Do you live in a water-scarce region? Are the impacts of global warming already being felt on your daily water consumption?

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