Making Drinking Water… from Thin Air

Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.*

iStock_skyAm I the only one who didn’t know there is existing technology to generate drinking water? From air? When I found this out (from a random tweet, which I quickly lost track of) I was ecstatic, filled with renewed hope: finally, a solution to the world water crisis! I tossed everything to the side. I needed to know if this was a hoax–it just seemed to good to be true.

Turns out, collecting water from the air is nothing new–it’s been a practice for 2,000 years. First in the Middle Eastern deserts in the form of air wells, then later in Europe. Around the 1400’s, history records water-collecting dew ponds, and later, fog fences.

I started getting excited about the notion of constructing buildings with solar panels on one side, water generators on the other… entire cities de-humidified and purified all while providing drinking water for the inhabitants. According to the US Geological Survey, one estimate of the volume of water in the atmosphere at any one time is about 3,100 cubic miles (mi3) or 12,900 cubic kilometers (km3). That may sound like a lot, but it is only about 0.001 percent of the total Earth’s water volume of about 332,500,000 mi3 (1,385,000,000 km3). If all of the water in the atmosphere rained down at once, it would only cover the ground to a depth of 2.5 centimeters, about 1 inch. So maybe the building idea is a bit far-fetched. I will let you know once I’ve done some more digging (anybody know if there’s a time generator available yet? I could really use one of those!).

Meanwhile, I found a generator for home use. Just 44″ x 16″ x 16″, the Dewpointe has a built-in filtration system and you can even get chilled and/or hot water. No more calling the Culligan man or worrying dewpointeLeft_rightSideabout what’s coming out of your tap.¬† The generator supports water conservation while creating pure drinking water (more than 8 gallons** a day) WITHOUT the plastic bottle waste (SIDE NOTE: the US consumes enough disposable bottled water to–if lined up on their side top to bottom–circle the equator every 2.9 days)! As if that wasn’t enough, this thing also functions as an air purifier, water filtration system, dehumidifier! OMG!

We’re fortunate enough to have acceptable well water, which we drink straight from the tap (tested yearly, just to be safe). For those of you wanting to make the switch to reusable water bottles but your tap water has flunked all the tests, this could be a great investment for you. The cost to generate water averages only $ .60 (U.S.D.) per gallon) and you’ll feel good knowing you’re doing something good for the planet. That is until we find out that sucking all that available moisture out of the air will negatively impact our ability to breathe oxygen.

What are we waiting for? Let’s donate these extraordinary water generators to that one FIFTH of the world lacking access to clean drinking water! Of course, they’ll need electricity to run it…

If you own one of these, I’d love to hear from you. Does it really work? How’s the water taste? Does it make a lot of noise? Am I getting excited over nothing?

* World Health Organization Fact Sheet Health in Water Resources Development).
** If 8 gallons is more than¬† you can use, call your neighbors over so they can fill their reusable water bottles. It’s a win-win-win!

Related I Count for myEARTH Post: Toilet Talk

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