A Billboard that Can Create Clean Water
With 0.51” of rainfall annually, the edge of the Atacama Desert in Peru is one of the driest places on earth. Most people rely on unmonitored well water supplies which are often polluted and make them sick. Another 700,000 residents have no access to clean water at all. But with high humidity (98%) almost year-round, Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) has created the first billboard to produce drinking water out of thin air.
In the first 3 months alone, the billboard produced about 2,500 gallons. That provides a safe source of water for hundreds of local families. Amazingly, the billboard only cost about $1,200 to install. With such a low price for our most important natural resource, it’s inspiring to imagine the health implications if one of these billboards was available to every rural city in Peru.
The billboard is attached to the city’s power grid, and runs 5 condensers similar to the condenser in a home air conditioning system. The condensed water is purified through reverse osmosis and then flows into the storage tank at the base of the billboard. Walk up to the billboard and spigots at the bottom pour out water ready to drink.
So far UTEC has not announced plans to build more billboards in Peru, although its technological breakthrough has re-vamped discussions on how to provide access to clean water throughout the nation. Neither have they announced whether they will charge people for water from the billboard. This is just the first step in an exciting new technology, and has created a stepping stone for further innovation to improve access to healthy water in Peru.
Author: Shannon Walker