Even in wetter regions like the Gulf Coast, where the storms are getting stronger and the rainfall more persistent, much of that water glut is washing back out to sea, unused, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

There’s a company called NBD Nanotechnologies, based in Boston, which makes coatings that can be added to plastic and metal surfaces, allowing them to pull water out of thin air.

In theory, someone-even me-could strap one of these panels to the bed of a truck, drive out to the desert, and live off the grid with water to spare.

Walking toward the strange rig at the truck’s rear, a 5-inch-thick black panel roughly the size and shape of the cab and tilted upward at a 35-degree angle, I found myself asking a question that was both very, very old and entirely new: Would I have the water I needed to survive?

As darkness gathered, I used a flashlight to find the small black nozzle where the water was supposed to flow.

After some chugging and wheezing from the pump, water spewed out.

A pump draws water out of the reservoir and into a tap.