Can A Film Of Vegetable Oil Help Alleviate The World's Freshwater Crisis?

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Climate change is causing havoc on weather patterns throughout the world. While some areas are getting more than their fair share of snow and rain, others are parched. Though the lack of precipitation is certainly an issue, evaporation of the water collected in the reservoirs is even more so. The US State of Texas estimates that the amount of moisture it loses to this phenomenon annually, could easily sustain the entire city of Austin, for that time period.

While there have been many ideas on how to curtail the evaporation, the most intriguing one has been suggested by Moshe Alamaro, a researcher at MIT and the founder of More Aqua. The company specializes in creating ultra-thin reservoir barriers made from olive, coconut or palm oils. Though the eco safe coverings are just one molecule thick, they supposedly provide enough of a barrier to reduce evaporation by as much as 75%. If those estimates are accurate it could save between four to six million cubic feet of water every year, just in California!

Of course, the idea of covering reservoirs has occurred to scientists many times. However, it has been challenging to create something that could stop water from escaping whilst allowing oxygen from the atmosphere to seep in, so that the reservoir marine life would not be harmed.

More Aqua's monolayer does just that. It has the strength to restrain the water from vaporizing, but is permeable enough to allow the seamless passage of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It is also non-toxic. In tests done with two ducks, one exposed to water with the monolayer and the other without, it was the former that lived longer. While not conclusive, it did confirm that the protective layer will not harm the wildlife.

Moreover, creating the protective covering can be done almost instantly using the More Aqua system. All that is required is dropping the fatty liquid onto middle of the body of water. The material spreads itself out until it reaches the predetermined thinness. What's even more interesting is that only four spoonfuls can protect up to an acre of water. The layer does have to be replenished weekly. Incase officials decide to discontinue using it, the existing layer simply disintegrates into water and carbon dioxide.

The only issue with monolayers, different versions of which have been tested in the 1960's, is that they tend to get swept away to the side of the reservoirs when exposed to even the lightest of winds. Mr. Alamaro asserts that his technology which entails surrounding the reservoirs with skimmers and dispensers, solves this issue. Each time the wind drags the monolayer to the edge, the skimmers simply pick it up and pass it back to dispensers to re-distribute.

While it certainly sounds feasible, experts are skeptical and believe that the chances of the More Aqua monolayer working are about 50/50. But given the escalating freshwater crisis, the monolayer surely deserves another chance, especially given that it costs just $68 USD per acre-foot compared to $680 USD per acre-foot for water from new reservoirs. Unfortunately, while Alamaro has had many conversations with the officials in California and other States, nobody is willing to give him the $3 million USD he needs for a demonstration - yet!

Resources: sfgate.com, Kut.org

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131 Comments
  • nitria
    nitria4 months
    INCREDIBLE!
    • adroit_avimimus
      Very interesting! My mom uses vegetable oil for cooking!
      • Jasonabout 4 years
        So interesting
        • Jaxsonabout 4 years
          Amazing I am speechless
          • Owenabout 4 years
            Whoever did this I applaud
            • Peterabout 4 years
              Love this
              • Paulabout 4 years
                The best article ever
                • Lukeabout 4 years
                  This amazing just so fascinating like how
                  • Talindaover 4 years
                    This is one of the most boring stuff articles in the world
                    • specialist
                      specialistover 4 years
                      I'm from Texas, and I think they need to turn off the water in all of those un-needed public water fountains and water parks during the summer, rather than kill off the last fish in Texas.