Published On: Tue, Jun 22nd, 2021

Israeli Researchers: There is a way to alleviate global water scarcity

Researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered that water formed from the air in the center of a metropolitan area, met all the drinking water requirements imposed by Israel and the World Health Organization.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered that water formed from the air in the center of a metropolitan area, Tel Aviv, met all the stringent drinking water requirements imposed by Israel and the World Health Organization.

The researchers determined that the water created by water vapor in the urban atmosphere, which is characterized by industry and large development, was safe to drink. The test was conducted in collaboration with Israeli company Watergen.

According to the researchers, the growing global shortage of safe drinking water causes thinking creatively and creating novel technologies for producing potable water. The Earth’s atmosphere is a massive and renewable source of water that might be used as a source of drinking water. Our atmosphere includes billions of tons of water, of which 98 percent is in a gaseous condition,(i.e., water vapor).

According to Offir Inbar, from the School of Environment and Earth Sciences, this is the first study to assess the effect of air pollution on drinking water derived from the air. According to Inbar, the gadget utilized in the study lacked any filter or treatment system; the water produced was collected from the air.

Offir Inbar explained, “the study demonstrated that wind direction has a significant effect on water quality; for example, when the wind blows from the desert, we discover more calcium and sulfur in the water, which are leftovers of desert dust aerosols.”

However, when the wind is blowing from the seaward direction, we observe larger quantities of chlorine and sodium naturally occurring in the sea. We also discovered that the water contains traces of the distant sources from which the air came. For instance, water produced from Saharan air is chemically distinct from water produced from European air.”

The researchers emphasize that anthropogenic pollution from transportation and industry also has an effect on water quality. “We discovered a direct correlation between the amounts of ammonia, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide in the air and the concentrations of their breakdown products in water using modern methods,” Inbar explains. “We discovered trace amounts of copper, potassium, and zinc in the water, which we believe are the result of human-caused contamination.

“From a research standpoint, the chemical connection we discovered between meteorological factors and the makeup of the water enables us to examine the atmosphere for the first time using water taken from it. And, from an environmental standpoint, this connection enables us to determine which minerals should be added to water retrieved from the air in order to offer safe drinking water to people.

In general, we discovered that drinkable water derived from the air lacks sufficient calcium and magnesium – and that it is prudent to supplement the water with these minerals, as other countries do with desalinated drinking water.”

Desalinated seawater accounts for a sizable amount of the water consumed in Israel today. According to Inbar, this is a partial solution that will not suffice to supply drinking water to the vast majority of the world’s population. “To desalinate seawater, you need a sea, and not every area on Earth has access to the sea,” Inbar explains.

“After desalination, a comprehensive infrastructure is required to transport the desalinated water from the coastline to the various settlements, yet enormous swaths of the world lack the engineering and economic resources necessary to construct and maintain such infrastructure. However, water from the air can be produced anywhere, without the need for costly transit infrastructure and regardless of precipitation. Economically, the higher the temperature and humidity, the more cost-effective it is to produce water from air,” he said.

Water generation devices, which comprise water filtration and treatment systems, are already in use in a wide number of nations, where they supply safe drinking water to people living in impoverished areas.

“There was fear that water created from air in the midst of an urban area would be unfit for human consumption – which we shown is not the case,” Inbar concludes.

The team of experts overseen by Prof. Dror Avisar, and included Director of TAU’s Moshe Mirilashvili Institute for Applied Water Studies. Watergen’s research and development team, Prof. Alexandra Chudnovsky, and prominent German experts were also involved in the study.

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