There are so many things that we take for granted every single day of our lives. Take for instance the ability to walk to a faucet and get clean, safe, readily available water without the opportunity to get stomped to death by an angry pachyderm. It’s not even something most of us think about because we are so used to the reliable old tap to be there. But what if it wasn’t? What would you do if you had to spend the majority of your day working to collect a few sips of potentially unsafe water just to survive?
No, this isn’t the newest televised game of “throw average people in the wilderness and see what happens.” The water issue exists all over the world right now. There are dozens of organizations like Water.org, co-founded by actor Matt Damon, which addresses the water situation across the globe. These organizations have spent millions and millions of dollars to try to bring sustainable sources of water to the most remote regions on the planet, but the complexity of the available solutions makes them almost impossible to implement.
Enter Arturo Vittori with his colleague Andreas Vogler, and their ingenious creation; Warka Water. These inexpensive 30-foot tall towers use a combination of structure and materials to produce clean water from thin air. Named after an Ethiopian fig tree, the vase-like towers are made from lightweight elastic juncus fiber that is woven into a rigid shell and then lined with a mesh or polypropylene liner. As cold air condenses, the water droplets run down the lining material to a container at the bottom and is ready for use.
The Warka towers have already been put in use, in Ethiopia; one of the harshest and driest regions of the world. “[In Ethiopia], public infrastructures do not exist and building [something like] a well is not easy,” Vittori says. “To find the water, you need to drill in the ground very deep, often as much as 1,600 feet. So it’s technically difficult and expensive. Moreover, pumps need electricity to run as well as access to spare parts in case the pump breaks down.”
Initially, there were questions as to how well the Warka towers would work in the sub-Saharan climate, but so far the results have been inspiring to say the least. Because of the drastic change in temperature that occurs every day, which can vary as much as 50 degrees, one Warka tower can produce up to 25 gallons of water a day from thin air through the simple principle of condensation.
So if these devices are this effective, then surely they have to come with a price tag that has made them unobtainable to this point, right? Not at all. A Warka tower costs about 500 dollars to manufacture and if they were mass-produced that cost would go down even further. That price is nothing compared to the 2,200 dollar water recycling “Gates Toilet” that was proposed at one time.
“It’s not just illnesses that we’re trying to address”, says Vittori, “Many Ethiopian children from rural villages spend several hours every day to fetch water.” In some regions of Ethiopia, it is estimated that the population as a whole spends a collective 40 billion hours a year searching for water. He goes on to say, “[this is] time they could invest for more productive activities and education,” he says. “If we can give people something that lets them be more independent, they can free themselves from this cycle.” Vittori is currently looking for investors to fund a trip to build more Warka towers this year. Here at Earth911.com, we are always looking for ways to help these types of causes and are in the works to help raise money for this particular cause. Stay tuned and we will let you know how you can get involved and bring something as simple as clean water to the region of the world that so desperately needs it.