It has been a tough couple of weeks for northern China. After much of the region issued an orange alert at the beginning of the month, it was quickly followed by the first-ever red alert and implementation of emergency measures. Yet, one emergency measure in particular has been getting a lot of attention: a giant water cannon that can shoot pollution out of the sky.
As seen on the streets of Jinan, Shandong on December 7, the “Multi-Function Dust Suppressor” is a large water cannon mounted on a truck that sprays water in hopes of reducing smog.
First seen in Zhangjiakou, Hebei in July 2014, the water cannon can hold up to ten tons of water and can spray a fine mist for 75 minutes. The question however is, does it actually work?
Zhejiang professor Yu Shaocai, certainly believes so. Yu, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency worker, is an expert on “wet disposition”, a process where water particles cling to pollutant aerosol particles in the air. When the two bind, the pollutant particles fall to the ground, thereby “cleaning” the air in the process. Yu believes the giant cannons should become a fixture in Chinese urban centers, and that all tall buildings should be outfitted with hoses to spray the surrounding area with water.
If Yu’s recommendations were implemented, the cannons would take a large toll on the water resources in the perennially-arid north. Of course there is also the issue of delivery, a problem Yu proposes to solve by using military helicopters:
This isn’t the first time giant water cannons have been used to influence smog readings. Last January, the Hanzhou Environmental Protection Bureau in Shaanxi was caught spraying water onto an air quality monitor in an attempt to influence the monitor’s readings.
With a cold front forecast to move in today, air quality in Beijing should gradually start to improve. However, the city needs all the help it can get, even if that help comes in the form of giant water cannons.