Friday, 9 August 2013

Billboards and Camanchaca

Browsing facebook again and I noticed a headline 'Drinking Water out of Air' (check out the video below). Intrigued I read how a group of engineers in Lima have designed a billboard that captures humidity from the air to provide clean drinking water in city where many people don't have clean running water and much of the water they can get hold of isn't suitable for drinking.

As with anything the system isn't perfect. it requires electricity to run (perhaps solar panels could be installed? take advantage of the sun as well as the humidity!), it must be expensive to install (this could be funded by whoever had their adverts displayed on the board) and require some type of maintenance (though perhaps local people could be involved in this?) and unfortunately many areas around the world with water shortages probably don't have high enough humidity, but overall it's great to see innovative solutions to environmental challenges being tried and tested.

It reminds me of 2 things we study in the Deserts unit at AS. Further south along the coast from Lima a more low-tech solution to water shortages in the Atacama desert, Chile, has been successfully used to for some time to make agriculture possible in one of the driest places on earth.

© Laurent Abad (Flickr) 

Years can pass by at a time without rain falling in this area, yet near the coast the Humboldt current cools the warm air above it producing the camanchaca (love that name it sounds so descriptive), clouds of fog which blow over the land in the mornings like white blankets. They not only look beautiful but allow plants, and animals such as guanacos to survive in an area that would otherwise be too dry.

The other thing it reminded me of was another example of environmental engineering that was proposed as a solution to mitigate desertification in the Sahel (last video for this post I promise!).

All this almost makes me wish I'd done engineering! I'm not sure if they're planning to actually try this out but apparently the 'Great Green Wall' initiative has already been started so perhaps this will be tried in combination if anyone can ever get it together to undertake such a huge project in such a hostile environment. If the project is successful it could have a huge positive impact in one of the poorest more insecure regions in the world. 

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