Architecture

Warka Water promises to harness safe drinking water from the air

The tower is rated as lasting up to 10 years and will require that locals are trained in order to maintain it successfully
The tower is rated as lasting up to 10 years and will require that locals are trained in order to maintain it successfully
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The tower is rated as lasting up to 10 years and will require that locals are trained in order to maintain it successfully
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The tower is rated as lasting up to 10 years and will require that locals are trained in order to maintain it successfully
It remains to be seen whether a full-size unit will draw as much water as the company estimates
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It remains to be seen whether a full-size unit will draw as much water as the company estimates
The current stage of the work-in-progress Warka Water prototype, by Italian firm Architecture and Vision
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The current stage of the work-in-progress Warka Water prototype, by Italian firm Architecture and Vision
If you'd like to take a punt on the Warka Water vision, as of writing the Kickstarter campaign still has 18 days to go
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If you'd like to take a punt on the Warka Water vision, as of writing the Kickstarter campaign still has 18 days to go
The basic concept behind Warka Water seems fairly sound, however the success of Warka Water will likely hinge on a list of other concerns
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The basic concept behind Warka Water seems fairly sound, however the success of Warka Water will likely hinge on a list of other concerns
Architecture and Vision rates the cost at "under US$1000," which is a lot of money in an area without infrastructure
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Architecture and Vision rates the cost at "under US$1000," which is a lot of money in an area without infrastructure
All collected water is stored in a large tank for later drinking
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All collected water is stored in a large tank for later drinking

As water shortage is a serious issue in many parts of the world, a means of efficiently harnessing safe drinking water from thin air without the need of expensive infrastructure could be a real lifesaver. Italy's Architecture and Vision is developing an off-grid bamboo tower called Warka Water that promises just that: the firm says it could collect an annual average of up to 100 liters (26.4 US gallons) of water per day.

Once completed, Warka Water will rise to a height of 10 m (33 ft), weigh 60 kg (132 lb), and be secured to the ground with eight guide ropes. The tower consists of a lightweight woven bamboo structure, while an inner plastic mesh retains water droplets from passing fog, which fall into a collector and a large tank. Any rainwater and overnight dew also collects in the tank.

Warka Water will sport a canopy that offers shade to people drawing the collected water, and a series of rotating mirrors which Architecture and Vision says will be sufficient to keep birds away. No electricity is required for any part of the passive water-harnessing process, and the firm says the bamboo structure will take six people four days to construct. On-site assembly should take four people just three hours, without the need for cranes or any other building machinery.

If you'd like to take a punt on the Warka Water vision, as of writing the Kickstarter campaign still has 18 days to go
If you'd like to take a punt on the Warka Water vision, as of writing the Kickstarter campaign still has 18 days to go

It's going to be a long road until that point, though. The essential idea behind Warka Water appears sound, but its success will hinge on overcoming a long list of other concerns, including the quantity and quality of water drawn, the structure's durability, and cost. Though rated as lasting up to 10 years, it will require locals to be trained and made responsible for maintenance, and while the estimated cost of under US$1,000 may seem relatively cheap compared to standard water supply infrastructure, it's still a lot of dough for an impoverished area.

It also remains to be seen if it could harness as much water as the company estimates – and on this note we'd encourage all-due skepticism. Indeed, though Architecture and Vision has produced a small working prototype, the first full-scale field test won't take place until the necessary funds have been raised by a recently-launched Kickstarter campaign, and it won't be suitable for all areas.

"It is first and foremost an architecture project. WW should not be considered as the solution to all water problems in developing countries but rather as a tool that can provide clean water in selected areas," says the firm. "Particularly in mountainous regions where conventional pipelines will never reach and where water is not available from wells."

It remains to be seen whether a full-size unit will draw as much water as the company estimates
It remains to be seen whether a full-size unit will draw as much water as the company estimates

If you'd like to try and help the team overcome these hurdles, as of writing its Kickstarter campaign still has 18 days to go. Raised funds will go toward developing a working unit, and promised rewards include Warka Water-related apparel, and a scale model. If all goes well, Architecture and Vision will eventually seek further donations for Warka Water units to be installed in select locations in Ethiopia, before potentially rolling out the system worldwide.

The video below shows a little more information on the project.

Sources: Architecture and Vision, Kickstarter

11 comments
Bob Ehresman
What a great place for the local warlord to post a guy with an AK-47 and charge some sort of barter tax for access to the water.
socalboomer
so what environmental issues would come from taking water from the air, that might have affected other things? What would happen with installation of more of these, effectively drying out the air even further? Just curious - they sound much like the Arrakis moisture traps - but I always wondered if trapping the moisture as they did might have contributed to the vast desertification. . .
Bill Bennett
They could name it Wonka Water.
Dax Wagner
There is no way in hell this thing will extract 26 gallons a day in real world conditions. Besides, the worst places with drought don't get fog anyway. Think about it.
Noel K Frothingham
It s physically impossible to remove all water vapor from our atmosphere as long as Earths surface is roughly 3/4 water. Out here in the desert of west central Arizona, we get approx. 6" to 12 inches of rain per year. Don't forget that much of the water vapor needed to create fog is brought into an area by riding piggy-back on storm systems no matter where you live. Dan Wagner, in the arid regions still have ground water. The aquifers are not on the surface, but below the surface from 60 - 400 feet down. I have heard that some of those well in my region were up to 1200 feet down. If we go with your reasoning, we'd never have running water coming from those aquifers that could be drawn upon to supply our water needs. And yes, even the more arid climates CAN have fog for exactly the same reasons mentioned above. Water vapor is in most circumstances brought in to a region by storm by storm systems. Fog requires both a moisture supply and correct temperatures - both factors can be transported into a region by storm systems but also by evaporation of water of local rivers and lakes. Folks don't think those arid regions can have temperatures down in the 20's. overnight. It may be infrequent, but it does happen.
Bob809
What they need is Moisture Vaporators, much like Binary Load Lifters. Just call Luke Skywalker and he'll fill you in on the details. Sounds a great idea if it works, but as Bob Ehresman says, they are asking to be hijacked by, unscrupulous types, much like the Sand People...
Strategic Futurist
Utilsing the fog is an old and proven idea http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/03/07/the-fog-collectors-harvesting-water-from-thin-air/ Other methods use clay pot surrounded by stones which rely on heat variation to cause condensation of even the driest air. The challenge with this idea is whether the overall surface area can meet the estimated production rate. It seems much more complex and more difficult to maintain
StWils
Something like 5000 years ago Air Wells were invented in what we now call Iraq. These Air Wells were carefully crafted stone towers with an exact ratio of stone surface to air space between each stone. Next, each stone was chosen or shaped and then placed to have a consistent inward tilt so that moisture condensing at night would roll in and down to a qanat or cistern at the base of the tower. These towers could be anywhere from 20 to 30 feet in diameter and as much as 50 to 60 feet high. I read that a typical Air Well 30 feet high could reliably produce about 100 gallons per day and that the qanat typically ran about a 1000 gallons. The water was then drawn out in buckets and distributed by hand. By these methods Afghans fed plants high in the hills for centuries. The Soviets made a practice of bombing Air Wells to starve and impoverish the Afghans in the mountains. Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion was second to Turkey in apricot production largely because of Air Wells that provided just enough water on a consistent basis to sustain agricultural production in otherwise arid areas. Also, about 20 years ago an effort was made to restore the cedar forests that used to cover Lebanon. By the time the Romans had clear cut Lebanon they realized their error but were unable to reverse the damage. So this replanting attempt involved shading the hillsides with white cotton drapes or umbrellas to create both a sunshade and a surface for moisture to condense on at night. This shielded grasses and young cedar saplings enough to encourage growth. Over time the plants themselves serve as a thermal dampener and moisture control surface. Unfortunately, Israel decided that these incipient forests were a security hazard and interfered in the project's continued existence. These ideas for capturing moisture and holding it in place are natural and exist everywhere on the planet where plants from grasses to trees thrive. Desertification was beginning to show in the Amazon river basin where trees had been clear cut. The government of Brasil is responding and forcibly pushing back to recover and restore forests. And we can help process happen if we wish to.
Don Duncan
Many deserts are manmade and can be corrected. The natural deserts are a challenge but nothing compared to the challenge of overcoming our species shortcoming, namely, superstition. The cedar forest restoration project was stopped by politics based in fear and violence. The unfounded, indefensible superstition of attacking innocents as a moral means of defense in seen all over the world, e.g., the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Starting wars used to be considered criminal in America. Now it's routine, even continuing when the justification is proven to be false. It appears the need to justify murder is not needed when the attacking nation is stronger than any other. Does might make right?
MichaelSkinner
Pump seawater from the pacific ocean to the nearest deserts. Use the sun to desalinate the water. Problem solved. Surely it would only cost $64 billion or so. A dried up state does not need high speed rail. Look up seawater greenhouse or saltwater greenhouse. You get food, energy and clean water. Our eventual goal should be to replace all California's agricultural water with seawater. Those who think this cannot be done have not done their homework on saltwater greenhouses and seawater greenhouses. "Innovative Ways to Deal with California’s Drought"