Increase USA Drought Resilience using Air Solar Water Technology
Those of us living in the USA have for many years seen the re-occurring famine strike areas like Ethiopia where insufficient water has caused their crops to fail and natural vegetation to die off. Unfortunately it appears that the risk of this kind of disastrous event is spreading into new parts of the world including the USA . The USA has better infrastructure in place but the drought of the 1930’s caused millions of US citizens abandon their farms and move west so even the USA is not immune.
Future droughts which are longer and more severe
Droughts start off subtle but by the time they are finished they can cause billions of dollars in damage, injure the economy of entire regions and put some of the hardest working American farmers into financial jeopardy. Unfortunately droughts are all to common occurrences in the USA alone we had major droughts in 1934-1938 (dust bowl),1950, 1998 and 2002 some droughts only affect a small area while others affect entire multiple state regions and some affect the entire country. According to the federal government droughts cost American’s over 2 billion USD every year with some droughts costing a lot more. NOAA and NOOA have published repeated warnings that droughts are likely to be one effect of global warming.
Some states like New Mexico have published reports showing that they expect more droughts which are more severe and which last longer as a result of the global climate change.
If these reputable studies turn out to be correct and we do see more extensive drought disasters; they will have a larger impact on America ’s agricultural economy which consumers will see in the form of rapidly increasing grocery prices. This could have a double whammy effect on the USA economy where first we see a larger number of farm failures, a reduction of the farm related spending. Second increased consumer prices for food items could suppress spending in other sectors slowing the overall American economic growth.
One of the impacts of drought can be Desertification, the process where desert takes over what was previously productive land. Reversing Desertification can be incredibly expensive so it is better to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
A2WH to the rescue
This paper explores how the A2WH (Air to Water Harvest) technology can be used to mitigate the damage done by drought. The current low cost of water combined with the cost of technology will initially resist widespread deployment in agricultural role however if we actually see the increased number of droughts that last longer then the A2WH may become essential in rescuing America’s economy from the global climate change.
Value water by It’s economic impact when missing
It is common for people to measure the cost of water by how much they pay for the cheap irrigation water from the Colorado and other rivers which is almost absurdly cheap with an acre foot sometimes costing as little as $12 per acre foot (325,851 gallons). It is impossible for any technology to compete with water this cheap but perhaps a better way to look at it in the emerging higher risk environment is to consider what it will cost If:
A) The normally productive land is planted but does not produce.
B) The normally productive land is not planted for several years.
C) The top soil from the normally productive land is lost due to extensive wind and water erosion.
D) The total economic loss if this productive land is removed from production for 5 or more years.
Cost of a major drought
We don’t pretend to have an answer to this question but what we do know is that the 1989 drought covered 36% of the USA and cost over $39 billion dollars and as droughts go i was not particularly severe or long. If the same drought where to cover over 90% of the USA like the 1950 drought and to last 8 years like the 1934 drought it is pretty easy to see how that $39 billion would grow by 300% due to increased regional coverage and grow by 700% more for time duration and by 200% more to accommodate the difference in operating costs from 1989 until now. This adds up to 1,200% increase in impact from the $39 billion in 1989 or $468 billion. To this number we would have to add the economic impacts from increased food costs and mass migrations from the worst affected areas like we saw in the 1934 drought. It is fairly easy to see how a disaster of this scope could exceed 2 trillion dollars which would we would see impacting the USA economy for generations.
Economic value of water
If we evaluate the water the economic impact when it’s absent the true value of the water per acre foot is probably something closer to $5,000 per acre foot at least in prime production areas. A2WH does not’t have the resources to conduct a full economic study to prove that number but we would be quite surprised if the number came back much lower and it could be quite a bit higher.
Lack of Rain complicated by depleted aqua quiver
The drought caused by lack of rainfall is complicated by dropping ground water levels across the nation. In central California these ground water levels have already fallen from 50 foot to over 300 foot in some areas and if this area was hit with an long term drought some of these aqua quivers will become completely unproductive or too expensive to pump. This case is repeated across the country puts these farmers at even more severe risk. Long droughts slow the recharge rates so aqua quivers that normally have enough water may drop significantly or dry up all together. Some enlightened states like Arizona have been banking water into their largest aqua quivers for years but unfortunately these locations are the exception.
How to avoid a 400 billion hit
How do we avoid this 400 billion dollar hit. One way is to aggressively forecast the areas that are most likely to be impacted and install infrastructure that can allow at least basic production to continue even during the worst drought.
The A2WH technology extracts humidity from the air and converts it to liquid water. It uses Solar Thermal energy to do this and the sun evaporates a trillion tons of water every day so this water bound humidity represents one of our most significant renewable resources.
Extracting water from air has historically been too expensive to use for bulk applications however the patented A2WH technology uses Solar thermal energy to eliminate one of the most expensive elements (electricity) which makes it possible to compete with many other sources. In addition our thermal collectors can be built in mass for a small fraction the cost of Silicon solar cell panels which makes the total deployment more cost effective.
Using Volume to drive costs down
Preliminary analysis indicates that a 10 billion dollar investment in deploying the technology will allow us to drive prices down far enough that we will be cost competitive with coastal distillation plants while presenting far less environmental risk. A2WH technology was specifically designed to allow massive ramp up in manufacturing. We avoided the need for large amounts of scarce resources like High purity silicon which has already caused spikes in the Photo Voltaic prices. The largest portion of our units can be built from commodity products like Aluminum and Acrylic and CNC capabilities allow us to produce molds for mass production quickly. Even with all these design advantages it will take years to fully deploy a sufficient number of units so the government strategists responsible for this kind of planning need to start now and move aggressively.
Production can continue during the worst drought
How can production continue when there is simply no water available due to sever drought? This answer is simpler than it seems. The first is to use our A2WH technology to ensure that adequate water is available to keep at least some of the farms operating. The second is to ensure that use the A2WH units in mass to recharge the water bank in areas where hydrologists indicate the water will remain and where past farming activities have drained it. The water bank should be able to keep some farms going through even a 5 year drought while the farms equipped with the A2WH units will be able to continue operating indefinitely which will keep agriculture in the area alive. Finally farmers have to be strongly encouraged to upgrade to modern water wise agriculture techniques so that any water we do have available during a drought will stretch further.
Even at massive scale water from air is too expensive for commodity crops like wheat or rice. A better approach is to shift areas with insufficient water into crops that can survive and thrive on the available water while still contributing to the food supply. Our Grow dryland process is specifically tailored to deliver exactly this. It uses a combination of trees that fix nitrogen form the air and produce edible fodder even during drought, micro land forming and a special A2WH unit that can support a tree seedling through a extended multi-year drought while it’s roots spread through an area large enough to allow it to survive on captured rain water. This allows us to put land to work that would otherwise end up barren contributing to dust storms during the next drought. At sufficient scale grow dryland can also help recharge water tables, reduce flooding and improve food security.
Our recommendation is composed of a number of basic factors. Some of which are immediate policy changes while others require our A2WH technology.
- Shift farms is dry land areas into crops like desert trees enabled by grow dryland
- Deploy enough of this infrastructure to keep at least 30% of the farms in our major food production areas going in spite of the technology.
- Provide strong financial incentives to update these farms to use high efficiency drip irrigation so we can stretch every gallon further. This includes mandatory metering and reporting for all ground water extraction.
- Identify key areas where substantial amounts of food are currently gown and where ground water has dropped substantially and install a sufficient number of the A2WH units to completely recharge the aqua quivers in these areas over a 10 year period.
- Modify water consumption policies nation wide to limit aquifer withdrawals to less than the natural recharge rates for those aqua quivers.
- Adopt a formal policy that allows withdrawal at greater than natural recharge rates only after a drought disaster area has been defined in a given areas. Even then the withdrawals should be limited to such that they can be safely sustained at that level for a minimum of 7 years.
- Have a stock of seed for drought tolerant edible plants stocked for each region so that if we can not fully water a given area it can still produce something while reducing wind erosion. See “Eden project in Nigeria ”.
- Use grow dryland to establish wind break trees in dryland areas subject to wind storms to help reduce soil erosion when farms are forced to fallow during drought.
If multiple regions are hit simultaneously then we will just have to expect some falloff in the affected regions until we can bring sufficient A2WH infrastructure on line.
Cities in Drought
As we mention in our A2WH cities document. Many cities especially in the west are already running close to their maximum available water. For these cities the impact of a severe drought could be impressive. These cities could see their available water drop by 50% in as little as 4 years sometimes sooner. As the New Mexico report suggests the climate shifts can be gradual up to a point and then transition with impressive speed to a new steady state. If this happens we could see water availability drop even faster. Some areas like Last Vegas have had the vision to bank a lot of water in ground water banks but even their entire storage can only make up a 50% short fall for a few years before being exhausted.
We have reviewed plans from Las Vegas and other jurisdictions and while many are taking appropriate steps to expand the diversity of their water sources in an attempt to minimize drought risk the very nature of the problem means that if a drought negatively impacts both the head waters of the Colorado or other major rivers at the same time as impacting local water sources these cities will wind up seriously short very fast. Humans are amazingly adaptive so we will survive the short fall even if the cities have to cut our daily water allocation by 75% but we may not enjoy that life style until the water flow returns. Remember that the 1950 drought affected the entire nation so a multi region drought is entirely feasible.
Again we have to ask the question: If you’re home and business where suddenly forced to use 75% less water what would be the economic impact in your area? We have seen Coke plants in India shut down due to insufficient water so we know the impact can be substantial but it would take a major study to quantify all the variables. I image the same kind of impact would be substantial for Pepsi, Coors, Aquafina not to mention industries that use large amounts of water for industrial processes and cleaning.
The A2WH A2WH units can be deployed in sufficient numbers to augment city supplies by 30% or more. By installing the A2WH units early the city has a source of water that will continue to produce at full capacity even during the worst droughts and since most water supplies don’t entirely dry up even during bad droughts we should be able to retain the city total water supply a minimum of 60% which will only require 30% conservation which will still hurt but should not’t be devastating.
The A2WH units do require space since we are using the sun energy to provide power but the environmental footprint of these units is amazing light. They can be positioned to take advantage of land that is unusable for any other purposes such barren salt flats, the area between freeway dividers, etc and they can be installed on land pieces as small as a ¼ acres so it is easy to find the land necessary for deployment.
For cities lucky enough to have sufficient numbers of mountains surrounding them the units can be installed at a higher elevation and the city can even get some free electricity by installing a hydro electric energy capture generator at the bottom. A severe drought can lower the amount of power available from traditional hydro electric sources so this power could be quite beneficial.
If you have additional information you feel we should include in this paper or are interested in deploying the A2WH A2WH solution in your area please contact us as Email or 800-658-8745
In past generations we have seen visionary and strategically focused government leaders invest in infrastructure like the Hover Dam and the interstate freeway system which seemed like incredible overkill at the time. Since then those key infrastructure elements have become part of the core fabric of American society so much so that most of us could not exist without the benefits they deliver. It is obvious that the water crisis possible as a result of a shifting climate could impact America in tremendous ways.
It is also obvious that America needs a new generation of strategic leaders to step up and drive a new generation of major infrastructure that will have an impact similar to those post projects. Water is essential for live, Water is essential to economic stability and water is essential for industrial growth so ensuring adequate water for both agriculture and cities in the emerging environmental climate is essential. It will take courage and some willingness to go against the long entrenched habits and attitudes but those leaders who are willing to step up and lead will be viewed as heroes if these major droughts do occur.
None of us like paying for insurance but we all do because the risk of financial disaster without the insurance is just too high. Deploying the right set of infrastructure to offset the water related risks involved with global warming is similar and while we may not like the initial investment the costs we insure against make the insurance a good investment.
Links & Resources
- A comprehensive list of Drought related information from the best free directory on the web. –http://dmoz.org/Science/Earth_Sciences/Meteorology/Weather_Phenomena/Drought/
- All About Droughts
- All About Heat Waves
- Billion Dollar Weather Disasters – 1980-1999
- National Drought Mitigation Center – The National Drought Mitigation Center provides information to help people and institutions reduce vulnerability to drought, stressing prevention and risk management.
- NOAA’s Drought Information Center – A collection of sites related to drought and climate conditions in the United States (and some individual states). It includes current reports, outlooks, and indices used for drought and moisture monitoring .
- North American Drought, a Paleo Perspective – Highlights the importance of paleoclimate research in providing information about past droughts and natural variability. Includes maps that display droughts of the various centuries. This page contains the best historical overview of Droughts and their economic impact that we have seen anywhere on the web.
- Drought – Background information for journalists – some of the most basic background information. I would suggest starting with the Paleo perspective documents and then coming back to this document.
- Climate of 2002 — US and Global Climate Perspectives
- U.S. Drought Monitor— (assessment of recent conditions and drought status)
(A joint effort between federal and academic partners.)
Click here for more about this product.
- NOAA Animated Indicator Maps for U.S. Drought Monitor — includes six-week and 12-week animations
- Seasonal Drought Outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center — (updated monthly)
- Hazards Assessment (extreme weather conditions—with graphics)
- NOAA’s Drought Assessment — includes the latest graphics
- NOAA Animated Indicator Maps for U.S. Drought Monitor — includes six-week and 12-week animations
- Drought Calculator — NOAA calculates amount of rainfall needed to end droughts around the country. Click here to directly to NOAA’s Drought Termination and Amelioration.
- Current Monthly State of the Climate Report
- U.S. Soil Moisture Monitoring
- U.S. Statewide/Regional Moisture Status
- Monthly Standardized Precipitation Index
- NOAA’s Drought Monitoring
- Palmer Drought Severity Index — (graphic updated weekly)
All About the Palmer Index
- Palmer Drought Information by Region Monthly Palmer Drought Index — includes animations
- Crop Moisture Index — (graphic updated weekly)
- Climate of 2001 — Annual Review
- Climate Monitoring — Weekly Products
- Climate Monitoring — Reports and Products
- Climate At A Glance — Nationwide Temperatures & Precipitation
- Extreme Climate and Weather Events
- Fire Potential
- National Geophysical Data Center — Drought Variability
- National Climatic Data Center — Climate Division Drought Data – Graphing Options
- NOAA’s Climate Theme Page
- NOAA’s Climate Diagnostics Center Drought Monitoring — Current and Anticipated Precipitation Anomalies over the U.S.
- NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction
- NOAA’s Office of Hydrology
- State Climate Offices
- Regional Climate Centers
- U.S. Geological Survey Water Watch—Maps and Graphs of Current Water Resources Conditions National Drought Mitigation Center — (USA clearing house for drought information)
- Vegetation and Temperature Condition Index
Originally written in 2005, updated in 2010, 2012, 2015
|(C) AirSolarWater.COM – Oct 2005 – All rights Reserved
This discussion contains forward looking statements which are based on current expectations and differences can be expected. All statements and expressions are the opinion of management of A2WH and are not meant to be either investment advice or a solicitation or recommendation to buy, sell, or hold securities. Many of these statements are based on sound economic reasoning, however actual response of the economy is heavily influenced by politics and large business and so the outcome could end up substantially different.