Soumac’s WOW blog – Could an artificial cloud be the answer to the world’s clean water shortage?

A large-volume water generator that creates clean water from precipitation is the latest invention to have been awarded the $1.5 million Water Abundance XPRIZE by the XPrize organisation – a not-for-profit organisation that creates and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit humanity.

More than 98 teams, from 27 countries, signed up to take part in the two-year Water Abundance XPRIZE competition, with the aim of creating a piece of technology that could produce clean water for the 790 million people – 11% of the world’s population – that currently live without it.

The solution had to use renewable energy sources to produce more 2,000 litres of water a day, on a budget of less than 2 cents per litre.

At the end of the two-year competition, it was The Skysource/Skywater Alliance’s ‘WeDew’, led by California-based architect David Hertz, that was eventually crowned winners, and with this in mind, Soumac are taking a further look at how the technology works in this month’s WOW blog.

How it works

Powered by biomass energy (primarily wood), WeDew uses a device called Skywater to collect water from the atmosphere; which then creates artificial clouds by cooling warm air and collecting the condensation in a ship-like container. The water collected then passes through an antimicrobial air filter to produce up to 2,000 litres of clean water a day.

Advantages

Unlike other technologies, such as desalination; which require the presence of water, WeDew doesn’t require close-by water resources or rain; which means clean water can be produced anywhere, at any time.  What’s more, at less than 2 cents per litre, the technology is affordable compared to other alternatives.

Furthermore, the system can also run on solar and battery power; which solves the potential problem of using the technology in parts of the world where wood isn’t as readily available.

Disadvantages

As with many technologies, a possible disadvantage of the WeDew system is its maintenance costs. The machine is large and complex, meaning if it were to breakdown, the costs could be significant. What’s more, the system is only said to last 10-15 years. And whilst the numbers sound impressive (WeDew can produce between 450-900 gallons of water a day), the average person uses 100 gallons a day – meaning this is by no-means an overall solution to the worldwide clean water crisis.

There is no denying that the technology is promising. Compared to other water-cleansing technologies; which are typically expensive and often cause further environmental damage, WeDew runs off 100% renewable energy. With the $1.5 million prize, Hertz and his team hope to implement the technology in several worldwide locations; however, it’s questionable how far the technology can be applied, as the quantities of clean water needed on a global scale are vast and WeDew, in its current guise, is not a large-scale solution.

, , ,