You can’t live without it

Water is the most abundant natural resource on our planet and covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. But, despite this abundance, there is a looming crisis in the global supply of safe, drinking water. According to the World Health Organization more than two billion people only have access to contaminated water, a situation that puts them at risk of contracting diseases such as cholera and typhoid. These water-borne contaminants kill about half a million people every year.

Climate change, conflict and overpopulation are key factors in the water supply crisis. Within a decade from now, 50% of the world’s population will live in areas without reliable access to clean, fresh and safe drinking water. As the world’s population creeps ever closer to eight billion, attention is focusing on finding and developing technologies that can help address the problem in remote and underdeveloped settings.

Pulling water out of thin air may sound like science fiction, but that is what Watergen, an Israel-based firm, is doing. And the technology is simpler than it sounds. The Earth’s atmosphere contains 13 billion tonnes of fresh water. Watergen’s machines work by condensing this water vapour out of the air. Used correctly, this technology could spark a major shift within the water industry that could have a lasting impact on the planet.

Air-to-water technology has the potential to deliver drinking water to remote areas of the world hit by conflict or climate change. Capturing atmospheric water means that there is no requirement for water transportation infrastructure or reliance on plastic bottles.

The team that developed the technology was concerned about the effect that air pollution might have on the quality of water extracted from the air. But research found that even in urban areas it was possible to extract drinking water that met the standard set by the World Health Organization. In other words, clean water can be converted from air that is dirty or polluted.

Watergen’s largest machines can provide 6000 litres of water a day. The technology has already supported entire hospitals in the Gaza Strip and in rural villages in Central Africa where people would otherwise have to walk hours to find water. It also helped Australia’s government battle devastating bush fires in 2020.

At RSK Communication Services, we help promote and support environmental technologies through our design and writing skills. We also have industry-leading water quality and supply expertise across the RSK group.