URL:  http://www.wired.com/2014/03/warka-water-africa/

 

Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Matt DeLuca discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals 1, 4, and 7

 

The news article “A Giant Basket That Uses Condensation to Gather Drinking Water” reported by WIRED on March 28, 2014 discusses how safe drinking water can be collected from the atmosphere by condensation in hot climates with little rainfall.  To do this, large towers called WarkaWater are created to capture the water.  In this article, Joseph Flaherty states that there is a need for safe drinking water that is within reasonable access the community.  This is addressing the only 25% of people that have access to safe drinking water (The World Bank).  The WarkaWater towers will provide safe drinking water within accessible distance to the community members since each household or group of households can have one of these towers nearby their residence.  The technology is a little costly at $550 a tower, but since they are producing an average of 25 gallons a tower there will be plenty of water to go around and the cost can be shared.  The WarkaWater towers can be built in under a week with a four-man team and can also be built with local materials that are available.  The structures don’t have any moving parts and uses no electricity making the product very low maintenance.  The design is supposed to look like the native Warka trees so that they will blend into the environment and the people will use them.  The baskets of the WarkaWater towers are made of an organic material with a mesh inside that is designed so that villagers can easily access and clean it to keep the water clean.

These towers will decrease child mortality and may also increase universal educational if these structures are built near schools.  The close access to water will help the community cook food and could possibly eliminate extreme poverty by providing a cheap long lasting water source.  It is estimated that 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking killing roughly 1,400 children under 5 each day from water-based diseases (UNICEF).  This technology will impact the area by providing a safe, reliable drinking water source.  The WarkaWater will change the main source of water in Ethiopia from well sources to this new condensation collection system.  The towers provide a safer and overall cheaper alternative water source instead of wells.  The ESA article mentions how there is a need to find a renewable as well as a sustainable fresh water source in many parts of the world included Ethiopia.

The current system for attaining fresh water in most regions in Ethiopia as well as many areas of the world are wells.  Wells are a standard way to get clean drinking water because the ground naturally filters the water making it safe to drink.  But compared with the WarkaWater towers, water can be just as effectively be attained at a lower overall cost when maintenance is included.  It will also take a lot more people to install a well than the WarkaWater towers.  The WarkaWater towers require less maintenance then a well since the towers only need to be cleaned every once and a while.  The towers may not be as appropriate as wells culturally only because they are a new technology and the community has be using wells for a long time.  The design is more appropriate because the materials used are all locally available whereas the drill for the well may have to be imported from a large city.  Also, water will always be produced from the towers since there will always be water in the atmosphere.  Wells have the potential of drying up if conditions get too harsh or from over pumping.

Woman making outer basket for the WarkaWater

Woman making outer basket for the WarkaWater

 

Sketch of the WarkaWater design.

Sketch of the WarkaWater design.

References:

 

Postel, Sandra L.  2000. ENTERING AN ERA OF WATER SCARCITY: THE CHALLENGES AHEAD. ESA Ecological Applications 10:941–948. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[0941:EAEOWS]2.0.CO;2

2014. World Water Day – World’s poorest have least access to safe water: UNICEF. UNICEF, New York. http://www.unicef.org/esaro/5440_14460.html

 

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