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.