water filtration billboard

This is really cool!

Old proverbs are only sometimes right (‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ being particularly suspicious to me) but necessity really is the mother of invention, along with, these days, government agencies that don’t stifle every innovative way we find to deal with the changes in the climate. This group of engineers and environmentalists came up with this little gem. I hope we see the idea taking off all over the world. It’s a billboard that collects moisture from the air, filters it and then delivers fresh drinking water straight from a tap at it’s base.

Parts of Peru have been going through a fairly major droughts recently. Like a lot of areas of the Amazon and other rainforest regions of South America, climate change and deforestation are radically changing rainfall patterns, leaving even desert places like Lima dryer than usual. In other parts of the world, people and the ecosystems around them are struggling to find enough water to get by at times of year when not long ago there was an abundance of rain.

While a place might not have rainfall, it still has moisture in the air and often plenty of it. Lima can be a very humid place and though it is in a desert area, there is moisture in the air that this billboard can capture. It’s easier to build than a well and while it won’t deliver as much water a well, it can certainly serve the needs of a small community both in times of need and even just as a safer source than a river or well. It’s almost ridiculously simple being an air filter, a condenser and a carbon filter that drips clean water into a small tank, producing about a hundred litres per day. It was designed by UTEC.

The UTEC Billboard

The UTEC Billboard and some of the community it serves

It’s not perfect because it had to be squeezed into a billboard shape, but with very little work it can be adapted to other climates and have solar cells fitted to run the condenser. Yet, it is much more than a prototype and it will take very little effort to modify the design. What jumped to mind immediately was how easy this system would be to get to flood, earthquake or tsunami zones where the infrastructure is damaged or contaminated; Bangladesh, Indonesia and even New Orleans could have done with billboards like this when hit by disaster. 

This sort of innovation will be vital to supplying much of the world with a minimum amount of drinking water. With luck, governments, development groups and individual communities will jump at this and make it a common sight in areas struggling with drought and thirst.


You can have a look at a video here and some more detail here.

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