How ocean water vapor may be an answer to a climate change issue
DWANE BROWN, HOST:
Of all the water on Earth, only about 2 1/2 percent is fresh water, and it's also vanishing fast due to climate change.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
But researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say climate change is also creating fresh water in the form of ocean vapor.
PRAVEEN KUMAR: And if we could tap into that resource, we could supply fresh water without the need to desalinate.
BROWN: Praveen Kumar is a professor who specializes in climate-driven changes in the water cycle. Kumar says existing methods to meet freshwater demands, like seeding clouds to make rain or removing salt from seawater, are inadequate and unsustainable.
FADEL: So as global temperatures keep rising, his research team set out to find a long-term solution.
KUMAR: Warmer air holds more moisture. We're also looking at warming of the ocean's surfaces. And as a result, evaporation will increase. So essentially, more evaporation and more moisture in the air and, therefore, more water.
BROWN: Now, the study focused on 14 water-stressed cities around the world. The objective - to see whether it would be feasible to capture ocean vapor and turn it into fresh water.
KUMAR: What we envision for this work is a capture surface. So if you think about putting something, say, in the ocean west of Los Angeles, with about 9 to 10 such structures meeting the entire drinking needs of the Los Angeles population.
FADEL: The researchers say what they need next is some kind of apparatus to make this happen.
KUMAR: It is now feasible to approach it from an infrastructure and a large-scale investment perspective and solve the problem.
BROWN: Kumar says capturing moisture from over the oceans could provide a sustainable fresh water supply and solve one of the planet's great challenges. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.