With all of the water we have in the world, only 2% of it is fresh water. To make matters worse, only one-forth of all fresh water is accessible to humans.

Until now, the entire human race has survived on 0.5% of the available water on earth. But that’s about to change.

We are seeing a fast growing trend towards harvesting water from the atmosphere, something our ancestors first began working on centuries ago. People in the Middle East and Europe devised the original air-well systems over 2,000 years ago. Later the Incas were able to sustain their culture above rain line by collecting dew and channeling it into cisterns for later use.

Even though these techniques have been around for a long time, technology in this area has recently taken a quantum leap forward, and many are beginning to think in terms of houses that generate their own water supply, self-irrigating crops, and even “waterless” cities.

The earth’s atmosphere is a far more elegant water distribution system than rivers, reservoirs, and underground waterways. Our current systems involve pipes and pumping stations that are expensive to operate and maintain, and easily contaminated.

Since we all depend on the rains to provide the water we need, what if we could extract this rain at the very time and place we need it? On-demand water extractors.

A new breed of inventors has emerged to tackle this exact problem. Using solar, wind, and other forms of passive energy, our future water networks will be operate with far more efficiency and convenience than anything imaginable today.

NBD Nano’s Atmospheric Water Generation

The 2012 NBD Nano Competition – NBD Nano – http://www.nbdnano.com/

Last year MIT worked with NBD Nano on a competition to devise future uses for their super condensation technology. In total, they received 81 entries, some of which were quite ingenious.

NBD Nano had developed a unique surface coating comprised of patterned superhydrophilic (water loving) and superhydrophobic (water hating) surfaces, on the nano-scale. Together these surfaces dramatically increased the efficiency of moisture condensation and, by extension, harvesting water from air.

Submissions ranged from self-filling water bottles, to extreme dehumidification, to a large-scale water sources for greenhouse drip irrigation, to emergency water for lifeboats, to self-filling canteens for the military, and much more.

The winning entry, titled “The Aquamist,” presented a simple elegant design for the emerging aquaponics and hydroponics industries. These small-scale agricultural operations require high humidity environments, and The Aquamist produced a water-replenishing environment to satisfy those needs.

More about the other entries here – http://grabcad.com/challenges/atmospheric-water-generator/entries

Meet the Water Harvesters

A new breed of companies has begun to spring up around the world, looking to the skies to solve the world’s looming water issues. These companies are using a variety of technologies to drive costs down for extracting water from air.

Here are some of the true innovators in this space:

FogQuest – http://www.fogquest.org

FogQuest is a Canadian non-profit that uses modern fog collectors to bring drinking water and water for irrigation and reforestation to rural communities in developing countries around the world. Their fog collectors can be used in dry regions and even deserts that receive less than one millimeter of rain each year. But to work, they do require fog and light winds.

EoleWater – http://www.eolewater.com/

Living in the Caribbean in 1997, inventor Marc Parent came up with the idea of using a windmill to extract water from the air. With a French venture capital investment, Parent moved the company to Sainte Tulle, France. After many years of development and testing, the WMS1000 (shown above) became the world’s first wind turbine able to produce 1,000 liters of water a day from air condensation. The first unit was shipped to Abu Dhabi for extended testing in the extreme weather conditions of the Middle East.

Airdrop – http://www.jamesdysonaward.org/Projects/Project.aspx?ID=1722

Developed by James Dyson Award winner, Edward Linnacre, the Airdrop irrigation concept was developed for poor agricultural conditions in periods of severe drought. Extensive research into droughts revealed an increase in soil evaporation and trans-evaporation (plant and soil) due to the increasing temperatures. Airdrop Irrigation works to provide a solution to this problem. Moisture is harvested out of the air to irrigate crops through an efficient system that produces large amounts of condensation. A turbine intake drives air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air to the temperature of the soil where it reaches 100% humidity and produces water. The water is then stored in an underground tank and pumped to the roots of crops via sub surface drip irrigation hosing.

A2WH – http://a2wh.com/

Developed by Joe Ellsworth in Seattle, the A2WH system uses a desiccant to absorb moisture from the air. The higher the humidity the more water the desiccant can absorb. The unit uses solar heat to drive both the airflow for the absorption process and to provide heat during the regeneration process that extracts the moisture from the desiccant and allows it to capture the water in liquid form. A small Photo Voltaic solar panel provides power for the micro controller, sensors, various valves, etc.

EcoloBlue – http://www.ecoloblue.com/

EcoloBlue has created an off-grid water harvester/dispenser specifically for the home or office. The unit shown above, the EcoloBlue 30, only requires 300 Watts to operate efficiently, and is designed to work with PV solar panels and batteries, to continually generate water even in emergency situations. It will generate between 1-3 Gallons Water / day depending on the humidity conditions and sun conditions.

Technion – http://www1.technion.ac.il/en

Technion, an Israel Institute of Technology, has come up with an unusual water extraction concept. Two architects invented this low-tech way of collecting dew and turning it into fresh water. It works well for collecting water in virtually any environment, even in polluted areas. About 12 gallons of fresh water can be extracted from air in a single day from one 300 sq ft unit. This technology recently won an international competition.

DropNet Fog Collector – http://www.greenmuze.com/nature/water/2358-fog-harvesting-dropnet-.html

Imke Hoehler, an inductrial design student at Germany’s Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts has turned a lot of heads with her thesis project, the DropNet fog collector. The collectors extracts tiny water droplets from fog clouds and turns them into drinking water at a rate of roughly 4-5 gallons a day.

Mist Water Canarias – http://www.aguadeniebla.com/

Developed over the past 5 years on the Canary Islands by Hernando Theo Olmo and Ricardo Gil, the “Water Gardens” are groupings of water-extracting towers for high volume and high quality water. Some of the planned uses are for forests, camping, fire suppression, agriculture, livestock, and human consumption.

The Self-Filling Water Bottle – http://www.behance.net/gallery/Atmospheric-Water-Collector/3949181

The Atmospheric Water Collector shown above is still not a functional product, but Canadian design student Thomas Row gives us an idea of what it may look like. With a portable water extractor that fits on most any bottle, the goal is to provide for all the basic water needs of a person on a daily basis.

Final Thoughts – Prospects for the Future

There are roughly 37,500 trillion gallons of “fresh” water in the air at any given time. The age-old problem has been getting it to people who need it at exactly the right time.

In liquid form, water is heavy and difficult to transport. Plastic bottle made water far more transportable, but it created a whole new set of problems.

Every day, millions of plastic water bottles, cups and containers are transported around the world by exhaust-spewing steamships, trains, and trucks, only to be discarded, thrown into landfills, and onto our streets. And most of our current bottles don’t degrade.

A high percentage of the products we buy in grocery stores contain water. Everything from pop, to juice, to vegetables, to beer, to soup, and much more. Transporting water is expensive, so what if the containers automatically added the water directly from the atmosphere once we took it home?

Is it possible to add a water extracting ground spike next to every plant or tree in our garden?

Is this a technology light enough for every athlete to carry with them, every adventurer to wear on their belt, and every soldier, sailor, and construction worker to have within arm’s reach at any given moment?

Will atmospheric water extractors replace city reservoirs, dams, water towers, and our elaborate network of fire hydrants throughout every community?

To me, the handwriting is on the wall. Today’s steel pipes will soon be replaced with tomorrow’s air pipes, and we will forget what life was like when chlorine-tasting water was an everyday occurrence.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Communicating with the Future” – the book that changes everything



15 Responses to “Tapping into the Waterways in the Sky”

Comments List

  1. Renee Smith

    Tom, This area of exploration is of particular interest to me as my mother has sat on the board of a water district for many years and I have gained knowledge from her experience. What an exciting future lies ahead for these explorers of the skies! Thank you for including this subject matter in your presentations and for keeping us posted on future developments. Your expertise is most appreciated!
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Renee, Thanks for the kind words. When I started researching this topic,I was blown away by how much work was being done in this area. The companies I mentioned were just scratching the surface. Thomas Frey
  2. <a href='http://sun-track.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>John Craig</a>

    Tom, Last year EJ and I tried building a no-moving-parts atmospheric water condensing unit using a photovoltaic panel, and a peltier device mounted in its shade. I learned a lot, but it was too inefficient. However, with the new nano-coatings perhaps this might still work. It's great to see all the other inventions making progress on this subject.
  3. Bill Trowbridge

    Invention: To "purify" water. Non-potable water could be used for a Zeer pot, providing evaporative cooling, which could then extract pure potable water from the air. Potable and non-potable reservoirs are kept completely separate. No additional energy required. Zeer pot requires dry, ventilated area.
  4. CaptD

    We are just beginning to see what wind turbines can do! Imagine a new "future" Multi-Functional Wind Turbine (MFWT™) that could "shift" from producing electricity to making water as the grid load or water "need" changes! This concept would provide a single solution to two of the major problems facing all developing Nations, a reliable source of Energy and a reliable source of Clean Water... Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/17YRk) + Check this out: A turbine that makes water from the desert air:http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/a-turbine-that-makes-water-from-the-desert-air/14701?tag=nl.e660 and this: Israeli device takes the thirst out ...http://is.gd/8tPLTM Now put the two together and imagine a new "future" Multi-Functional Wind Turbine (MFWT™) that could "shift" from producing electricity to making water or even Hydrogen (in liquid form) as the grid load or water "need" changed! Maybe I'll get the first Solar O'Neill (SON) award for the idea!
  5. Gavin

    The cheaper energy gets the cheaper processed sea water will be. If Lockheed Martin Skunk Works can really produce mobile factory made and mass produced fusion reactors a lot of humanity's problems will be solved. On a side note if you read this Mr Frey, would you consider supporting Ocean Iron Fertilisation. This could potentially halt global warming and increase depleted fish stocks. Obviously small steps need to be taken so the risks can be properly evaluated.
  6. Don Johnston

    These ideas are beautiful in their conception and the implementation would give people greater power over their environment. They are steps away from the biological reality that created and sustains us. It would be a difficult choice were a choice available, but technology is a monster unto itself. As you point out, soldiers etc. Will people making the deserts bloom will expand human population? Will extracting water from already dry areas affect the ecology of deserts that might depend on dew? We cannot favor ourselves without disrespecting the world around us. A simple basic sustainable human presence on our wonderful natural world seems a very distant concept from the economic and industrial system necessary to create and maintain these ingenious mechanisms. Mechanisms for capturing water that otherwise perform unknown, and yet undiscovered functions of humidity and fog, both thrills and terrifies me. May we all not drown in our genius.
  7. <a href='http://www.watermakerindia.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>meher bhandara</a>

    It may interest you to know that the world's only village of over 600 inhabitants is drinking atmospheric water every single day since the last 5 years from our WaterMaker Water Station. We set this up at Jalimudi Village in Andhra Pradesh, India as part of our social program. Our WaterMakers range from 120 litres to over 5000 litres. We are now exploring options using alternate power but so far the capital costs have been very high for a feasible solution. If anyone has some cost effective ideas, do let us know. Alternate Water combined with Alternate Power could benefit everyone.
  8. <a href='http://a2wh.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Joseph Ellsworth</a>

    Thanks for showing our A2WH technology in your write up. A2WH grow dryland is a simplified version of A2WH that can support growing trees on degraded land that is at risk of being abandoned due to desertification. A2WH Grow dryland provides the foundation to rehabilitate this land and turn it from a liability providing nothing but dust and silt back into land that produces edible fodder to sustain sheep and animals during drought conditions and nitrogen rich compost during good water years. Grow dryland makes it feasible to grow trees on land where they would be unlikely to survive long enough to become established. We designed grow dryland to reduce the need for people to migrate due to water scarcity and increasing degradation. We feel Grow Dryland is important because the U.N. has predicted hundreds of millions of people will migrate by 2030 due to water scarcity and we are already starting to see the death toll as desperate people attempt to migrate from africa into europe as the first wave of this migration. We designed Grow dryland to tackle the underlying culprit that will drive most of the migration. Now we just have to get it deployed at a scale that is meaningful.
  9. Farmer Obama

    @FarmerObama has a different plan for #America: 1) Run it off everything in this video, then build a ton of #EoleTurbines everywhere. https://t.co/GcEXn9shVw Plasma Physics > Oil HHO gas extracted from normal water using plasma physics and Zero Point Energy is truly the energy source of the future. Instead of drilling for oil destroying the planet, our source of energy can be pulled from the air and oceans all around us. Since France invented E'ole turbines, we now have windmills that can provide 1,000+ L/Day of pure water out of the wind, making water + energy accessible and more autonomous to the world- even in deserts. Cars, planes, houses, machines, utilities, and more could be (some already are) powered by zero point energy as you saw in the video. Picture everything they showed there, in here, or anywhere, and how strange it would be in the future if cars pulled up to a water spigot or lake, instead of a gas pump to fuel up. Imagine the many things that can run on water (HHO gas) in this country if cars already can? This secondary gas property has been inside water all along. Sure, 40mpg is nice with a gallon of gasoline, but they traveled 100 miles off 4oz of normal water!! Coal would only make sense in winters. 2) Did you know you can purify sewage #water using #ultrasound? https://t.co/QVk9qmZ9DR Cavitation > Reverse Osmosis pharmaceutical waste sludge can now be made drinkable by using pressure and ultrasound to cavitate the water, exploding the water molecules, breaking them down into H2O + CO2 and destroying the free radicals and contaminants like in the video. Imagine this on a greater scale allowing us to drink the pollution out of our water systems and sewers in mass. Imagine for developing countries if they made this technology as a solar powered vending machine where you pay $1 to pour dirty water from any source into the machine instead, and receive it back purified. Do people know if we're NOT cavitating the water, current sewage treatment methods don't remove all harmful pharmaceutical compounds completely? 3) These are #EoleTurbines. 1,000+ liters of water per day out of thin air. Even in a desert. #Water is #Freedom. https://t.co/0S9bIvw9sT Free water > No water America has over 70,000 industrial wind turbines, none of which are modified to produce purified water out of the wind at the source like E'ole turbines. Knowing technology always advances, imagine when the output exceeds the current 1,000-2,000 L/Day range of the WMS-1000 models? These could break the leash we are tied to by lakes, and water outlets making water accessible and completely autonomous even in deserts. These could also serve as a buffer for farming, water scarcities, water storage, water emergencies, water energy, water pipelines, and water consumption. Not to mention a buffer from droughts. These could even provide an offshore wind farm that generates pure water and energy for an entire island offshore, or an inland oasis to provide water for cities in the deserts. 4) The #CrowdEnergy turbine captures the massive force of the #ocean as #energy w/ slow rotation, not #wind or #solar. https://t.co/ivHvjoVxli Moon energy > solar energy A push towards wind or solar may be good, but unlike wind and solar which fluctuate and suffer losses in efficiencies, ocean energy (tide energy, etc.) is always at a constant. Tidal energy comes from the moon, and strangely enough, moon energy may become as important as solar while exceeding efficiency. Every continent has a defined zone(s) where they can harness the energy of the ocean waves, and though they aren't all using Crowd Energy turbines at the bottom of the ocean, many modern models are springing into use already. The only thing safe during a hurricane is probably the bottom of the ocean, and perhaps the safest backup spot for a power station. Imagine too, once the underwater ocean turbines are capable of powering massive offshore desalination plant(s) using tidal energy to desalinate ocean water grand scale? 5) Oh, and forgot to mention, #AllLungsMatter https://t.co/PRIQw4mqnc Bicycle > Gym People don't realize they're living at lung compression level one. The lungs can expand much more into a conscious state than we give them credit for, and it starts with lifting on a bicycle (see video). Instead of stopping to catch your breath when tired, keep going, and exhale harder (fast-fast-slow) repeatedly until you're "actually" out of breath to train your mind and body to make your lungs adapt to hold more air. This and much more like heart rate, circulation, metabolism, blood sugars, weight, muscle definition, energy level, and blood pressure will all change once you start lifting while riding a bicycle, because you gain new supporting muscles you won't get doing the same 16 exercises on a gym bench. If singing OR biking OR lifting make you tired/out of breath on their own, can you imagine what will happen to your lungs once ALL 3 at once DON'T make you out of breath while exhaling more over top? It sounds crazy. Crazy enough to change your entire pulmonary physiology. 6) Once 3D-printers + welding torches all run off Zero Point Energy (water), enjoy an #IndustrialRevolution, plus #Minecraft on #Earth #MicDrop HHO > H2O you already (hopefully) watched the video lecture on zero point energy (#1). If the U.S. has already built a 3D printed jet engine that runs on sea water instead of jet fuel (and hum v's that run on water or gas), I also believe it's about time we make the machines which are 3D printing the machines we use, run on water (HHO gas). I can only imagine what the world could do with a 3D printer that only requires water to print. Such a machine could one day allow homeless people to 3D print their own shelter, tools, and survival needs needing only water to build. Even more, imagine using an HHO gas powered 3D printer to print an atmospheric water generator, using that generator's water from the wind to then fuel the 3D printer to print water powered appliances/machines, then printing another water powered 3D printer, etc. As you already saw in the video, zero point energy can create an HHO gas welding torch that burns cool, yet slices metal and vaporizes tungsten. Cities without electricity still have zero point energy all around them, and water even when it's not raining (E'ole). People claim 3D printers will take jobs away. I hope they do take jobs away, jobs such as child laborer, and sweatshop worker. 7) @FarmerObama has a plan for those extra solar panels too. https://t.co/Kfa35QwNes Thermal Hammock > Thermal blanket How come when a disaster strikes, the red cross is quick to shell out thermal blankets to stop people from freezing, yet when homeless people are freezing outside daily they don't give them thermal hammocks? A thermal hammock park would be a great use of some spare solar panels. Store sunlight in the day to heat the hammocks at night. These sound much more alluring when you're the one stuck outside in the cold. 8) #HydroHammocks https://t.co/KatTAUk4bx HydroHammocks > Tents It is probably true that Hydro Hammocks made one of the best inventions of 2015 hands-down as a hot tub in a hammock. I once sat in a hot tub outside in 15 degree weather and it was completely relaxing. Hydro Hammocks may change how we are forced to bear the brunt of what nature throws at us; winter cold, summer heat, anywhere, pitch and go. 9) This baby would #change modern #computing + #accessibility for each city, wall, & building in #America as we know it https://t.co/ADSZQphnln TrackBall > TrackPad the magic trackpad by Apple takes the multi-touch gestures of a touchscreen and makes them available for computer navigation in a mouse. The surface of the trackpad is 2D and flat. If you applied the same concept of the magic trackpad to the 3Dimensional rolling surface of a computer trackball, the functions become augmented ten-fold. Rolling ⬆⬇⬅➡ on the ball with 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 fingers is already 20 functions. Add diagonals and it's 40 multi-touch gestures. Add pinching with fingers 1-5, rotating the ball with 1-5, and more, and one magic trackball could easily reach 100 multi-touch gestures. This could change computer navigation permanently, app navigation and stacking, computer security, and common accessibility drastically. Imagine when the magic trackballs could be programmed to auto-change their functions to adapt wirelessly to your changing room or environment? Imagine when a hospital can adjust every light on the floor from a wall trackball, instead of separate panels. Imagine working multiple apps at the same time using different gestures on the same ball, not to mention 3Dimensional operating systems where the magic trackball is needed to navigate the computer's 3D environment preventing hacking by any other means but your trackball. Plus, imagine how machines, rooms, factories, construction, communication, security systems, and vehicles could change using magic trackballs. 10) A lot more #Americans would have access to free #water using wind with this, and free water would mean #FreeEnergy. #ZPE https://t.co/Gcp7PFxefa No water bill > A water bill so Fontus created a water bottle that fills up with .5 pint of water while you bike for an hour, using the Peltier effect and solar as wind passes through it. What if there was a roof turbine that had Peltier elements installed on 'every' blade, so while it was spinning, it provided your household with clean water via wind and gravity? A fan that harvests water on your rooftop is right up there with A/C, and could become a staple for housing in disparate locations. If your water source gets tarnished, you still have your rooftop. The same water could double as energy (HHO gas). More -->
  10. Farmer Obama

    11) ~$650,000,000 = 1,000 #EoleWater turbines = ~1,500L/unit/day = 547,500,000 liters of water in #365 days. #NoDroughts https://t.co/ddcbyFtCB1 Atmospheric water > Well water approx. 547,500,000 annual liters of additional water from 1,000 E'ole turbines (at 1,500 L/Day each) could mean a buffer from droughts, and water scarcities. They are guaranteed 1,000 L/Day per windmill, up to 2,000 depending on humidity. These could even complement Lucid Energy's unique "in-pipe" hydroelectricity (Lucid Pipes). With E'ole water turbines, we could build self-filling water towers to run pivot irrigation systems drought-free. Recycling atmospheric water may help climate change temps by preserving groundwater. Why wait for it to rain, when you can supercool stored water out of the wind daily? At ~$650,000 each, you could afford 1,000 units for less than Trump's tax return. One day we could be driving up to one of these to fill our tank. 12) Chances are #Americans would become a lot more #mobile, a lot less stranded, a lot more lazy, and a lot more awesome https://t.co/P9AFLAjq8T Board > Bike CitiBike stations are getting popular. Some people aren't good with bicycles, some people lack the endurance, some have injuries/disabilities, some have trouble walking, some have very far to bike, some are feeling tired, and many, have their hands full. Such products like Boosted Boards and Tesla Boards (pictured) are electric longboards which you ride using a remote control for the gas and brakes. A fraction of the world still uses alternate methods of transportation. Solar-charging CitiBoard stations complete with remotes would be a convenient way to allow a wider variety of people to seize a lift, no pedaling required, and become less stranded. You could even go all-in with locking wireless charging pads at the CitiBoard stations. 13) What if #UltraSound will replace #Chemotherapy treatment soon? F*** cancer. https://t.co/m3em5x79yT Ultrasound > Chemotherapy a majority of cancer patients are debilitated more than saved by chemotherapy radiation. Dr. Karathanasis on behalf of Case Western Reserve University engineered nano-sized cancer hunters 300x smaller than a red blood cell. These have a nucleic acid chain attached to 4 beads (3 iron oxide, 1 lipid sac with chemo drug). These bond to metastases on the tumor surface, an ultrasound current is then induced that shakes the iron oxide beads, then when the frequencies match, the 3 iron oxide beads shake so rapidly that the 4th lipid sac shatters releasing the chemo drug directly into the cell. This is astounding, and could be a new premise for future alternative treatments to chemotherapy. 14) #SeldonWaterboxesForFlint https://t.co/52uN9YS3g2 Clean water > Bad policy Seldon water boxes purify a gallon of water in nearly 8 minutes with advanced carbon nanotubule technology. If all you have is the water around you, these could provide families with a homemade source of pure water. 15) Legalize more weed. (That one was a guess) Pot > Why not uhhm.. Smoke it while you got it? Hemp seed oil has several health benefits aside from smoking, and oil concentrates have been used to fight cancer. If you can do this in #America, you can do it anywhere. (#15 not included) Farmer Obama out.
  11. <a href='http://kingsasankadesilva.blogspot.com/' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Kithsiri De Silva</a>

    Very interesting. I am keen to know whether it is possible to anyone who can build one for us on our small farm in Sri Lanka. Thanks. Kithsiri
  12. <a href='http://air2watersolutions.com/' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Ridley Fitzgerald</a>

    It's interesting to learn about atmospheric water! I like how you said that earth's atmosphere distributes water very elegantly and effectively. It'd be nice to have a generator that guarantees clean water, no matter what.

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