Way out in the Atacama Desert sits Lima Peru. It is one of the driest places on earth, receiving almost no rainfall. Many of the people living in Lima Peru have no access to clean water. This problem isn’t just limited to Lima, Peru… but the solution they created here is amazing and should be replicated elsewhere.
While this area doesn’t receive much rain, it has a very high level of humidity, especially between December and February. During these months humidity levels can exceed 90 percent. Yikes.
Now this is where things get interesting… engineers from Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) have found a way to convert that nasty humidity into clean water for drinking and bathing. They stared off by erecting a billboard in the Bujama District in December 2013. By March they had already produced over 2,500 gallons of clean water.
The idea came about because UTEC was facing a slump in enrollment as the new semester approached; the engineering department wanted a way to attract more engineering students to the university. They went to Peruvian ad agency Mayo Publicidad, and the partnership of engineers and marketers crafted an advertisement that would provide a very visible demonstration of the university’s engineering projects. The water-collecting billboard was born.
Electricity from the city’s power lines runs the five condensers inside the billboard. Like the condenser in your home air conditioner, the ones in the UTEC billboard are cooler than the air outside. When air contacts the cooled surfaces of the condensers, the air also cools, and the water vapor in the air condenses into liquid water. After reverse-osmosis purification, the water flows down into a 20-liter storage tank at the base of the billboard. The billboard generates about 96 liters of water each day, and a simple faucet gives local residents access to the water. UTEC has not yet announced whether the water will be available for free, but the billboard reportedly cost only about $1200 to install.