Clean Water Around the Globe
August 01, 2016
We North Americans have unparalleled access to clean water. Clean water is such a given that we have the luxury of judging water based solely on its taste. We can simply assume that our tap water, across this entire continent, is clean and safe to drink. It’s astounding, really. The idea of not being able to find any clean water to drink is almost incomprehensible to us. This is not the case, however, in many other parts of the world. In fact, 795 million people —one in nine people across the globe— live without access to clean, drinkable water.
As we continue our look at Clean Water, having looked at the history of and process of water treatment and purification in Part 1 and Part 2, this month we will begin to look at some exciting innovations in providing clean water to people who need it.
First, we turn our attention to Lima, Peru, our neighbor far to the south, on the Northwestern coast of South America. Lima is at the northern edge of the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, which means that the almost nine million people in the metro area see almost no rainfall at all — perhaps a half-inch of precipitation annually. Citizens of Lima are desperately in need of clean water; however, one thing they have plenty of is water vapor. Situated near the Pacific coast, Lima’s humidity level averages around 83% and is often at 100%. So, since there is so much water in the air, engineers at Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology designed an unusual and innovative tool to create potable water — a billboard that creates clean drinking water from humid air.
MAYO DRAFTFCB / UTEC
This is a real thing — a billboard that creates up to 26 gallons of water a day out of thin air (or, in this case, it might be fairly thick air). The billboard contains air condensers that cool the air and condense the water vapor to liquid water. Here is a diagram of how it works:
MAYO DRAFTFCB / UTEC
This billboard cost around $1200 USD, and could certainly be replicated and utilized in many parts of the world. To offset the cost of additional billboards, they could even be used in the manner in which they are typically used — for advertising.
Next month, we will look at more innovations in producing clean water, and efforts to provide clean water to all people, all across the globe.
Time Magazine, "Finally, A Billboard that Creates Drinkable Water Out of Thin Air"
Popular Mechanics, "A Billboard that Condenses Water from Humidity"