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Harvesting drinkable water from the atmosphere is becoming a reality

Published at: 28 August 2015


Only 2% of the water on Earth is suitable for human and livestock consumption - to make matters more challenging, only 25% of all that fresh water is actually accessible to us. Worldwide, an estimated 768 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water. Now new research by a burgeoning field of green engineers has revealed that more than 12 900 km2 equivalent of water is available directly from the air - in the from water vapour. The extraction process, known as Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG), takes water vapour in the air and condenses it by cooling the air below its dew point, either by exposing the air to desiccants, or pressurizing it. Unlike a dehumidifier, an AWG is designed to render the water potable.

In arid Ethiopia, the global problem of access to water is amplified, with only 34 percent of the population having access to a reliable water supply. The vast majority have to travel up to six hours for their daily supply of safe water, the only alternative is resorting to the use of stagnant ponds that are more often contaminated by human waste, resulting in the spread of disease.

Architecture and Vision (AV), an international and multidisciplinary team of designers engaged in the development of energetic renewable and environmentally sustainable solutions, has looked at how they can change the situation and come up with a unique environmentally aware solution to the water problems Ethiopia faces called the WarkaWater.

WarkaWater, which is named after an Ethiopian fig tree, is composed of a 30-foot bamboo frame containing a fog-harvesting nylon net that can be easily lowered for repairs and to allow communities to measure the water level. Each water tower costs just under R8000 and its creators say the price will drop significantly if they start mass-producing it. The structure takes three days and six people to erect and doesn’t call for any special machinery or scaffolding.

This elegant invention may not solve all of the world’s water woes, but it could improve accessibility one drop at a time.

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