A Different Approach to Coping With Drought

The bottom lie, literally, is that he wants $3million

Water levels are low in reservoirs all over the parched West, but in many areas, the amount of water being used is no greater than the amount that evaporates, according to Moshe Alamaro, a scientist and inventor affiliated with M.I.T.

So for far less than it costs to build a new reservoir, he said, water managers could get more use out of existing ones by reducing evaporation.

Mr. Alamaro, the founder and chief technical officer of a start-up called MoreAqua, proposes to cover reservoirs with a layer of vegetable oil made from palm and coconut. The covering would be two-millionths of a millimeter thick – about one molecule in thickness, and hence called a monolayer – and two gallons of it would cover a square mile. It would reduce evaporation by up to 75 percent, he said.

The idea is not completely original; the Bureau of Reclamation, part of the Interior Department, tried it in the 1950s and 1960s on Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City using a chemical called hexadecanol. The problem, though, was that the wind blew the skin off the lake. Engineers have also explored its use for controlling hurricanes.

MoreAqua has a more sophisticated approach than simply spreading a layer on the water. It wants to surround a reservoir with dispensers and skimmers so that more of the vegetable oil – which is not quite hexadecanol, although Mr. Alamaro would not disclose its precise composition – can be dispensed as needed.

Almost all of it can be recovered on the downwind side, and through the use of ordinary irrigation equipment, it can be pumped back to the upwind side and released again, he said.


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5 responses to “A Different Approach to Coping With Drought

  1. And the reservoir goes anaerobic. Everything dies. The stench would carry hundreds of miles. Downwind cities, like Oklahoma City, would be uninhabitable.

    • Not everything dies. The anaerobes will do fine making methane, H2S (probably) and smelly stuff. You also get to watch fish come to the surface for oxygen, get their gills coated and stay on the surface as they rot.

      MIT, huh? I thought they were better than that. Maybe his secret sauce passes oxygen but not water.

    • True. Anaerobes will be happy.

      You know, some good old duckweed would work as well as those nasty CHEMICALS! Unless, as you say, their special sauce will pass oxygen.

  2. Not necessarily GC. If it truly was 1 molecule thick, then it wouldn’t interfere much with oxygen transport or inhibit fish much. Of course, it wouldn’t inhibit evaporation much, either. Keeping a layer on thick enough to be effective but without being detrimental would be near-impossible.

    • K. We’ve covered oxygenation as something they need to handle.

      How are they going to cool the reservoirs? No evaporation = no cooling. Lakes will get ridiculously hot in short order.

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