The United Nations estimates that people in sub-Saharan Africa spend roughly 40 billion hours per year collecting water, and the worst part about it that the water they find is mostly unsafe to drink. Roughly 3.4 million people die every water due to water-related disease and this is one thing Africa lags the most. In some parts of Africa, finding portable water takes up to around 6 hours. It’s a major problem that affects around 1 billion people on that continent alone.
Is there a way out?
Yes, there is. A device has been developed that pulls out drinking water from the fresh air. Designed by Arturo Vittori, an industrial designer, and his colleague Andreas Vogler, WarkaWater is an inexpensive, easily assembled structure that extracts gallons of fresh water from the air. Standing 30 feet tall, the vase-shaped tower is made of lightweight Juncus stalks carefully woven together that stand strong in wind gusts while still allowing air to pass through. This rigid housing holds up a nylon or polypropylene mesh net that collects droplets of dew as they form on the surface. As cold air condenses, the droplets roll down and collect in a container at the bottom, making fresh, safe water is produced out of thin air.
But this is not the first of its kind. A few ideas like this have already surfaced before including fog-collecting water machine made by MIT a few years ago. The advantage WarkaWater provides is that it yields more water at less cost. According to the designer, the tower can generate more than 25 gallons of water a day, and because the process is enabled by radically changing day and night temperatures, it’s especially effective in the desert, where fresh water can be hardest to find.
The setup is cost-effective as well!
Compared to its competitors, The WarkaWater, is relatively inexpensive to set up and requires little maintenance. Currently, each tower costs $500 to set up, but that would drop if the towers found an interested investor and were mass-produced. Even now though, that’s a low price compared to something like the $2,200 Bill Gates toilet, which requires more maintenance and requires completing a complex procedure to set-up.
By the end of the year, Vittori hopes to have two towers fully operational in Ethiopia, where only 21% of the population has access to “adequate sanitation services.”
“It’s not just illnesses that we’re trying to address. Many Ethiopian children from rural villages spend several hours every day to fetch water, time they could invest for more productive activities and education,” Vittori said. “If we can give people something that lets them be more independent, they can free themselves from this cycle.”