Not everyone has easy access to potable water, some of the world’s poorest reduced to drinking whatever is available or being forced to walk for miles to get whatever is available.
For some of us, potable water is as close as the nearest tap, turning a handle brings treated water right into our kitchens. Of course, such a system requires millions of dollars in equipment and logistics to install, something that not every municipality in the world has access to, such as those in African countries where rain rarely falls and rivers and streams are few and far between. Many of these areas, however, are blessed with a natural supply of humidity due to their proximity to the ocean.
Of course, humidity doesn’t automatically translate to potable water, since human beings tend to evaporate water through their skin and breath, also because we weren’t designed with the water-saving bodily functions of desert animals. Take, for example, the humble Namib Desert Beetle, whose wing covers are a combination of hydrophilic and hydrophobic sections. The hydrophilic bumps condense water from the morning fog, while the hydrophobic sections funnel the resulting water droplets to the insect’s mouth. Researchers at the University of Engineering and Technology [UTEC], in Perú, have been condensing potable water out of the regular fog using mechanical means, but what if there was a simpler (read: cheaper) method?
The structure above may simply look like a fancy IKEA lamp, and if IKEA made it, they would have to call it something like Vattenkylare (Swedish for water condenser). Really, the beautiful bamboo construction of the exterior is not the important part. The fabric suspension inside, however, is where “the magic” happens. The polyethylene-coated fabric is lightweight and both hydrophilic / hydrophobic. Humidity in the morning fog condensates on the fabric, which then runs down into a collecting container at the bottom. The model shown above, called WarkaWater, is named after the native-Ethiopian fig, the Warka Tree, a common communal gathering spot. WarkaWater essentially turns into the office water cooler, another traditional gathering spot. Including whatever local materials for the framework, WarkaWater weighs about 60 kg (130 lb) and stands 9 m (29 ft) tall. It requires no energy source and has no moving parts, yet produces nearly 100 ℓ (25 gal) of potable water every day!
Image © Architecture and Vision