The Stream, March 30, 2022: New Technology Could Solve Solar Energy’s Water Problem

Solar panels in Oregon. Photo © Oregon Department of Transportation / Flickr


  • Experts say mismanagement of resources could plunge Morocco into a water crisis as climate change worsens.
  • Cameroon faces its most recent cholera outbreak.
  • Michigan lawmakers pass a major spending bill, including billions for water infrastructure.
  • Australian officials propose a major damming project that has been met with intense criticism for bypassing standard process.

Scientists in Massachusetts develop new technology to clean solar panels that could save billions of gallons of water each year.

“The water footprint of the solar industry is mind boggling. The industry has to be very careful and thoughtful about how to make this a sustainable solution.” – Kripa Varanasi, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Researchers at MIT have developed a cleaning system for solar panels that could save billions of gallons of drinking water each year. Currently, solar panel setups require an estimated 10 billion gallons of purified water each year to clean. The self-cleaning system developed by MIT scientists repels dust particles through a simple electrode that passes just above the panel’s surface. The technology will be put to the test as solar  energy becomes more popular in desert regions that are prone to dust and sand storms.

In Recent Water News

Arizona’s Future Water Shock – Smaller cities. Soaring water prices. Scorched desert towns. Read the final report in Circle of Blue’s three-part series on Arizona’s water reckoning.

What’s Up With Water – March 29, 2022 – This week’s episode of What’s Up With Water covers a rare win for Mekong River conservationists, pollution across America’s waterways, and an oil spill in the Mississippi River watershed.

Morocco on the Brink of Drinking Water Crisis, Experts Say

Experts are warning of a potential drinking water shortage in Morocco. The north African country is in the midst of its worst drought in 40 years. As climate change worsens, temperatures rise and rain refuses to fall, mismanagement of dwindling water resources could push Morocco into disaster.

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers


Cholera cases are on the rise in Cameroon, the country’s health minister said late last week. In the span of one week, officials recorded more than 30 cases of the water-borne illness. At least 29 people died after being infected. Cholera is typically transmitted through poor sanitations. Outbreaks aren’t uncommon in the west African nation. The last major outbreak occurred between January and August 2020, when 66 people died.


Michigan lawmakers passed a $4.8 billion infrastructure spending package last week, the Associated Press reports. The plan, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign, includes $2.1 billion for drinking water infrastructure. The funds will go towards replacing lead pipes, improvements to the state’s dams, and PFAS contamination clean up.

On the Radar

Australia’s prime minister and deputy prime minister announced a multi-billion-dollar plan to build two dams that have been the center of failed development plans for decades. Plans to build the Hells Gate and Urannah dams, which would be build in Queensland’s Burdekin rangelands, have been proposed and scrapped numerous times by politicians over the last 80 years. The latest revival are estimated to cost $5.9 billion in federal funding. Prime Minster Scott Morrison announced his plan last week, bypassing typical processes for similar projects – including an environmental impact study. His announcement garnered criticism from experts, who say the prime minister is pandering to northern Queenslanders with the promise of “big, shiny things.”

More Water News

The war in Ukraine is accelerating the climate crisis in the Horn of Africa, where many have grown dependent on the region’s grain exports.

A proposed Nebraskan canal through Colorado would dredge up a centuries old cemetery.

U.S. environmental officials failed to stop the Montana Legislature from weakening water pollution rules, a conservation group said in a recent lawsuit.

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