Seeing the Purpose of Water Vapor at Local Industries
4/17/2013 3:15:26 PM

These plumes of cloud-like formations are seen wafting through the air from cooling towers at area industries. Not knowing that it’s simply water vapor, some people wonder if it’s harmful to the air.

Turns out, water vapor has an environmentally-friendly purpose. "Industries use a significant amount of heat and water in the industrial process,” explained Carol Collins, public relations director with one of the area industries. "Cooling towers are used to cool the hot water that is generated when heat is removed from the process. Industries reuse much of that water many times before returning it to local waterways at a safe temperature.”

If industries did not use cooling towers, large amounts of water would have to be continuously returned to waterways and then, continuously re-supplied to the plant. This would require more production to keep the water flowing. "Reusing the water multiple times is eco-friendly. It allows industries to use the most productive method possible, which is smart for any business to do,” said Collins.

Once the water vapor is formed, cooling towers serve to dissipate it into the atmosphere, allowing the wind to dilute it further.

"I am often asked why the water vapor changes appearance from day to day. That’s actually due to another very simple reason: a change in the atmosphere. Temperature, humidity and wind affect how quickly the water vapor is absorbed into the air,” said Collins.

Water vapor is more noticeable during the evening, or on a cool, humid day. As water vapor moves over sunlight, it can also change its appearance.

Collins said it’s understandable that people would wonder about the plumes coming from area industry. "When they understand that the plumes are actually water vapor, they usually say, ‘Well, that makes sense.’ Area industries are like other businesses in that we find the most efficient way to produce our product. These cooling towers are one part of an efficient system.”

Posted by: Carol Collins | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Environment  |  Health  |  Safety  |  Water Vapor

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