WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Water is ubiquitous, it’s everywhere, but extracting it and distributing it to the people who need it has often been difficult – until now.
Today over 75 percent of all the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture, and what’s left is then either almost impossible to access or transported around regions in pipes, which is good for people with access to those water systems, but bad for people who don’t. And with a water crisis looming it’s now more important than ever that entrepreneurs find new solutions to help everyone get access to clean, disease-free water.
To try and solve this challenge a team led by US architect David Hertz has developed what amounts to a cloud in a box – an “energy-efficient technology for harvesting fresh drinking water from the air,” which is housed within a shipping container for easy transport.
WEDEW’s Cloud in a Box. Courtesy: WEDEW
The WEDEW system as it’s known, which stands for Wood-to-Energy Deployed Emergency Water, can generate 2,000 litres of water per day by combining cold and hot air to create condensation.
Skysource-Skywater Alliance the Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) can be used in areas where water scarcity or water quality are a problem.
However, unlike previous attempts to create similar systems which have come with a high carbon footprint WEDEW not only has its own 100 per cent renewable energy source, but it’s also carbon-negative meaning it generates extra energy that can be used by the local community.
“More fresh water exists in the atmosphere than all the rivers on Earth, yet we haven’t tapped into this vast supply,” said the Skysource-Skywater Alliance in a statement. “Using principles from nature the two technologies of bio-gasification and water generation are co-located and engineered into a performative symbiosis, a four elemental solution in which Earth + Fire + Air = Water,” continued the company – referring to the logos that appear on the sides of the containers.
The process generates power as well as hot humid air for water generation. Another beneficial by product is Biochar — charcoal that can be mixed with soil for fertiliser. This is a stable, sequestered form of carbon with agricultural benefits.
“Biomass is a natural part of the carbon cycle, the global process by which carbon flows between the atmosphere, oceans, land and living organisms,” they added. “Human activity has thrown this cycle out of balance by releasing excessive amounts of carbon into the air.”
“The waste products of forestry, agriculture, and natural disasters contribute to the build up of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Instead, biomass can be alternatively used as a renewable fuel source for gasification.”
The California-based Skysource-Skywater Alliance was founded by Hertz who has his own practice, the Studio of Environmental Architecture – and photographer Laura Hertz. It builds on the patented Skywater technology developed by Richard Groden.
A number of groups are working on harvesting drinking water from the air. SunGlacier’s solar-powered Desert Twins harvester can collect water in the hottest and driest of environments, and there are more on the drawing boards …