Fighting Back Against Catastrophic Drought

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In the last issue of Atlantis Rising, we spoke about the benefits of structured water, but in much of the world now, the ordinary kind of water that all of us need to survive is becoming very hard to come by.

Conserving water in California isn’t optional anymore. In April, Governor Jerry Brown announced there will be mandatory water cutbacks in the drought-stricken state for the first time in history.

Catastrophic water scarcity is already here in many places, including India. Corporations and farmers have been consuming surface water there, and groundwater levels have been dropping. At the same time, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute, water pollution is increasing rapidly.

[According to Susan Martinez in Atlantis Rising #105 (“Global Cooling”), although the developing world (China, India, Africa, etc.) definitely has its share of water problems, “the highest proportion of drylands subject to desertification is North America with 74% affected” (UNESCO). “The Soviet Union,” she says, “kept secret for decades the desiccation of the Aral Sea, the world’s fourth largest lake, which has shrunk to ten percent of its original size, turning the region into barren wasteland.”—ED]

In California, Governor Brown says, “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow.” In a public statement he said, “This historic drought demands unprecedented action. Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.” (

In India, the situation is even more dire. More than 100 million people are living in places where what water there is, is severely polluted. Out of the 632 districts examined to determine the quality of groundwater, only 59 had water safe enough to drink. ( india-is-already-facing-a-water-crisis-and-it-is-only-going-to-get-worse/)

With increasing industrialization and urbanization, more than 40% of India’s available surface water is being consumed every year. In the northwestern region, the breadbasket of India, about 80% of the surface water is being used.

The report states that with more than half of India’s total area facing high to extremely high stress, almost 600 million people are at very high risk of surface-water supply disruptions. The shrinking water supply might seriously impact the country’s agriculture sector, which claims 90% of the available water. Yet even though the current situation looks extremely grim, there is a significant possibility that it can get worse—much worse. By 2030, the water supply is projected to fall 50% below demand.

Today the water wars are rapidly accelerating with new players. It’s no longer just the farmers against the ranchers or the urbanites. It’s the people against the new “water barons”—Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Monsanto, etc., are buying up water resources all over the world at a disturbing rate.

Right now, California has only about one year of water left in its reservoirs, and the strategic backup supply of groundwater is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one.

Corporations are poised, of course, to take advantage of the water crisis. Instead of protecting existing water supplies, implementing stricter regulations, and coming up with novel ways to capture rainwater, or desalinate seawater, the corporate agenda is ready to make trillions off your thirst.

It is not surprising that people in drought-stricken areas are now ready to try new things, or maybe even some very ancient things. Here are some of the more interesting ideas being considered.



Some planners are proposing a new twist on one, very old, idea: cisterns. I had two cisterns connected to rain gutters in my yard growing up in South Louisiana. I am surprised, that the experts took so long to figure this out. (

This may be the point where we must decide how much water can be recovered from nature in order for humans to survive—whether for reservoirs, tanks, or swimming pool—how much water can be taken directly out of the ground, and how much from the rain? In some cities—Los Angeles is a good example—rainwater has basically been running off into the ocean. With all the water problems in that part of the country, and elsewhere, wouldn’t it be better if we captured what is naturally provided and then use it efficiently, rather than continually making even greater demands on our dwindling resources?


The Atmosphere

Here’s an amazing idea we are following at—a gizmo which sucks the air in, then sucks the water out of the air, and then spews out clean fresh water—five hundred gallons of it a day. Every off-grid home should have one. For now the only problem is the cost. It’ll set you back a cool $500,000. FEMA has already bought two, and the U.S. Army is said to be on the verge of buying many, because getting our boys pure water is one of the key logistical requirements for any military operation.

The box o’ tricks is from Aqua Sciences, Inc., and the company says its high cost is justified because in the end it is only $0.25 per gallon. For those of us without battalions at our command, however, the price is still a little steep. The makers are working on a consumer model, but it won’t be out any time soon. Its precise workings aren’t public, but, apparently, the system uses a chemical process similar to the one that causes salt to absorb moisture from the air (and clump up your saltshaker). Lithium chloride is used as a desiccant.

“People have been trying to figure out how to do this for years, and we just came out of left field in response to Darpa,” said Abe Sher, chief executive officer of Aqua Sciences. “The atmosphere is a river full of water, even in the desert. It won’t work absolutely everywhere, but it works virtually everywhere.”

“We figured out how to tap it in a very unique and proprietary way,” Sher said. “We figured out how to mimic nature, using natural salt to extract water and act as a natural decontaminant.

“Think of the Dead Sea, where nothing grows around it because the salt dehydrates everything. It’s kind of like that.” The 20-foot machine can churn out 600 gallons of water a day without using or producing toxic materials and byproducts.

“I was pretty blown away by the things it’s able to do,” Rowe said. “The fact that this technology is not tied to humidity, like others are, makes it an attractive alternative for military bases in the Mideast where humidity is not really an option. It seems like it’s a cheaper alternative to trucking in bottled water, which has a shelf life,” said Rowe, who described himself as a fiscal hawk.

Once deployed, the machines could reduce the cost of supplying water to the troops in the desert areas by billions of dollars, said Stuart Roy, spokesman of the DCI Group, Aqua Sciences’ public affairs firm. The cost to transport water by cargo planes and then

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truck to the troops is $30 a gallon. The cost, including the machines from Aqua Sciences, will be reduced to 30 cents a gallon, Roy said.

Several systems on the market can create water through condensation, but their processes require a high level of humidity. Aqua Sciences’ machines require only 14 percent humidity, Roy said. “That’s why this technology is superior and why they are getting the contracts.”

The Aqua Sciences system offers a fully contained, mobile freshwater generation system for large-scale production, including power generator, and can produce up to 1,200 gallons of water per day for 7 days without an outside electrical source or refueling. ( people/magic-water-harvesting-machine)


Dirty and Salty Water

Elsewhere, there is news of a 40-foot container with a special reverse osmosis module that can now provide emergency water for up to 3,000 people per day.

The Carocell direct-solar desalination technology, according to the manufacturer, emits no greenhouse gas emissions, uses no chemicals, no costly membranes, no filters, no electronics and no ongoing power source other than solar radiation. A $700 panel can provide five gallons of fresh water daily.

The system, reportedly, provides safe, high quality potable water from any source including seawater, groundwater, and contaminated or polluted water. It also incorporates Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) technology when Carocell panels are in a series, which converts waste brine into drinking water and valuable fractionalized salts (sodium chloride and magnesium chloride—used for dust suppression in the mining industry).

The technology is said to be the most efficient and cost effective of its kind. Preliminary, independent testing by one engineering firm found Carocell to be almost twice as solar efficient as comparable products.

Low cost, robust, modular solar panels can be mounted on ground or roof. The design enables multiple panels to be connected together to produce larger quantities of distilled water from a single source. The panels can be supplied individually or in bulk. Single panels are said to be ideal for family use, while a series of panels will provide for a village. Alternatively, the panels can be set up as a large-scale water farm. The design enables rainfall to be captured and harvested as well, claims Carocell.

Carocell’s increased efficiency (65% with peak efficiencies above 80%) over other solar distillation products (30–40%), the company says, is achieved through a combination of proprietary materials, which are used to dramatically increase the temperature of the feed water on the solar collector, which enhances the evaporation/condensation processes inside the panel. (


The Landscape

New thinking is now going into landscape design, with maximum water retention as the goal. With the right design, it is argued, it is possible to provide enough freshwater for animals, plants, and humans beings in every region of the world. Water, after all, is the key to a stable climate. A naturally built reservoir that allows water to seep into the ground has a balancing effect on the climate. There is no life without water, so we need to create natural, decentralized water landscapes, using smart retention methods to collect rainwater and store it on the land to promote the growth of vegetation.

All around the planet the soil is drying out and water is being lost due to bad management of resources. Centuries of intense, and incorrect, cultivation methods have resulted in the drying out of the land.

Contour lines and natural watercourses are a very valuable aid when designing a retention space. The first step is to look, to read the landscape, to recognize the contour lines, and how the water will run and collect. The lakes and ponds need to be placed in the low and deep zones, where water from a large catchment area can be collected. Most valleys have a narrow point and the dam needs to go there. The core of the dam consists of loam and an aquifer (barrier) that is watertight.

The existing vegetation can show us where to build the lake. For example, wool grass, cotton grass, moss, reeds, willows, alders or downy birches all indicate ample moisture in the ground.

It is possible to build a lake anywhere, using the catchment area of the rain flow, which will, in no time, fill the lake with rainwater. Water retention landscapes are natural and don’t need to be built with concrete or sealed with plastic sheets (pond liner); we don’t want a retention landscape to be watertight. The earth itself is the water storing body. The only place that needs to be watertight is the dam. By using only natural materials, the earth can benefit and the water can permeate surrounding areas restoring the hydrological balance. A water retention space needs to promote biodiversity, terraces, different depths, a rich plant life, many insects, animals and reptiles. The more diverse, the more stable. (

The Austrian inventor and master of water’s secrets, Victor Schauberger, famously said, “Learn to comprehend and copy nature.” Maybe it is time we took his advise.

By Jerry Decker •