Proposed: The Permanent Drizzle

24Jul10

I keep hearing about cloud-seeding and all sorts of other cool ideas to get water into the air so that it can fall on the ground — not to mention other water-related terraforming concepts, like the canal to bisect Australia.  My humble contribution, probably inferior and unworkable in many ways, is to suggest putting pipes up in the air and pouring water out of them.

There are probably many ways to put pipes or tubes up in the air.  They could be very thin, so as to reduce weight; they could hang from blimps, or could be supported by cables running to the tops of mountains, skyscrapers, or radio or water towers; they might be moisture-conducting ropes or strings instead of actual pipes.  It would be hard to get water to any great height, which might be just as well; above a certain point, water will freeze.

The water conveyed upwards could come from rivers that are already there, or from canals to the coast.  There are lots of places around the world that are lower than sea level; presumably water could be tunneled and/or siphoned from the ocean to holding tanks in some such locations.

Seawater could be safe for this purpose.  The water would go up; the water would rain out of the end of the tube; the water would evaporate on the way down, and drift off as vapor; the salt would drop back to the ground, not too far from the shower head.  This probably wouldn’t work with a wicking scheme; the salt would presumably clog the ropes or strings.  On the plus side, if the drifting water vapor could be collected downwind, this might be an economical approach to desalination.

This sort of device could be used on various scales.  Whatever its terraforming potential, it could at least create ambiance and downwind cooling in urban settings.  The idea that people would live in cities without waterfalls could someday seem bizarre.

Probably the main problem for this sort of device is the need for energy to pump the water upwards (though not in the case of wicking).  Possibly the motion of a blimp could be used to pump water upwards — if, for example, the emptying of the tube changes its weight, causing the blimp to change its location.  Local windmills could also pump water.  Incoming water pressure via siphon might also vary with coastal tides, creating opportunities to elevate water somewhat.

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