“Thin air” tech will replace piped domestic supplies, says Watergen
It’s over a decade since Watergen introduced the world to its “too good to be true” technology – a machine that makes water out of thin air.
Now the Israel-based pioneer aims to build on that success with Wireless Water, which will revolutionize the way we receive our water supply at home – as well as in our cars, caravans and beyond.
Instead of having water piped to our homes by a utility, we’ll have the option to go completely off-grid with a machine and a reservoir on our roof supplying all our needs for drinking, showering, cooking and more.
Watergen already has the technology to do this. Now it’s working on improvements that will bring down the cost per liter to a point where home water production is a commercial reality.
“Everything in our life is wireless today,” says Michael Rutman, Co-CEO at Watergen. “We have wireless charging, we have wireless communication, everything is wireless, there’s even a wireless dog leash, but we still cannot move water wirelessly.
“So Watergen is creating a wireless network for water so you don’t need to move it anymore. Why should I create the water in a plant, when I can create it in your house and you will consume it fresh, without adding any preservatives to the water?
“To move water from point A to point B you have to add chlorine and other preservatives to keep it fresh. But with atmospheric water generation you are basically creating wireless water.”
It all sounds very far in the future, but the technology is already tried and tested. Watergen pioneered “water from air” tech, refining the heat exchange technology used by hundreds of millions of air conditioners to extract moisture from the atmosphere and produce pure drinking water.
The machines work in even the driest climates, like the Sahara Dessert, where the relative humidity – how much water is in the air – hits a global low.
Watergen machines are today used in over 90 countries globally, even in Syria, where they have been installed at the former Islamic State headquarters in Raqqa.
The challenges now are to ramp up production of the machines, and to reduce their operating costs.
Watergen is still more expensive than tap water, per liter, but is far cheaper than any alternative. Refills for a standard water cooler in Europe work out at between 40 cents and 80 cents a liter. Bottled water is much more. Watergen water is currently just three cents a liter and that price is going to drop.
And the company believes it has found a way to slash their machines’ energy consumption to an eighth of what it is today.
So how soon will it be common for people to have Watergen rather than grid water in their home?
“This is a very tough one, but from the bottom of my heart, I believe that the mass market penetration will be somewhere around 2025. That’s my dream,” says Rutman.
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“One of our biggest problems today is manufacturing, because demand is much higher than what we can supply at the moment, but we are rapidly investing in building more manufacturing facilities.
“An ordinary home would need a machine about two and a half meters by two and a half meters. You’d put it on the roof. You’d connect it to a reservoir and to your existing piping,” says Rutman.
It would produce far more than the average home needs – around 120 liters day – so neighbors could hook up to and share the same one. A domestic Watergen machine could cost $20,000 to $30,000, says Rutman, but that’s a cost that could be shared, and which would inevitably drop over time.
“You’d have solar panels or some kind of hydrogen engine as a power source. We are collaborating with companies on doing that. That’s the future, and we are working on multiple patents and multiple technologies to make it real. Today the company has 42 patents and 27 pending.”
The same basic technology is also being adapted for vehicles – cars, trucks, buses, train, yachts, caravans.
“You’ll be able to create your water on the go while driving. It’s already working, we are in discussion with a few leading car manufacturers around the globe to integrate this technology into their vehicles,” he tells NoCamels.
The Romans built aqueducts 2,000 years ago to transport their water. “Basically nothing has changed since then,” says Rutman.
“We invented the internet, we invented electric cars, but our only innovation in terms of moving water from point A to point B has been to do it underground instead of over ground.”
The world is in water deficit. The population is growing, but with global warming there’s less rainfall. Desalination allows us to drink sea water, but in the long term it increases salt concentration, making it harder to remove.
The answer, he says, is not water from the sea, its water from air. It has virtually no carbon footprint and can readily solve some of the world’s biggest water inequalities.
Canada and Russia have vast water resources per head of population, but India is home to 14 per cent of the world’s population and has just seven per cent of the world’s water. And much of that is contaminated.
Even the western world suffers water problems. Around 80 per cent of schools in New York state were found to have a water supply that is undrinkable because of lead and other heavy metals from the pipes.
One alternative is bottles. The world consumes 1 million plastic bottles a minute and fewer than one in 10 are recycled. At the recent COP27 climate conference in Egypt, water bottles for tens of thousands of delegates were flown in from Europe.