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The answer to water scarcity might be in the air

23 Oct 2014, 17:30 GMT+10

A Brazilian engineer has designed a machine capable of producing 5,000 litres of drinking water a day by condensing humidity from the air and processing it to make it suitable for human consumption.

Since 2010, Pedro Ricardo Paulino has sold 200 of his Wateair devices introduced to the markets just as the southern Brazilian state of Sao Paulo entered a crisis due to insufficient water supplies.

"All this machine needs to work is a source of electric power and an air humidity level over 10 percent," Paulino told Spanish news agency Efe. "Pollution in the air doesn't matter at all since solid particles are not present in vaporised water."

Paulino, who said he has invested more than $1 million of his own money over the past four years to develop the apparatus, offers Wateair in two versions: one, sized as an office filtering system, can produce 15 litres of drinking water daily, while the full-size device has a capacity for 5,000 liters per day.

The office-sized version sells for 7,000 reals ($3,180), while the bigger version has a price tag of 350,000 reals ($160,000).

"Initially, our clients were mostly schools or individuals who needed modest volumes of drinking water," the engineer said. "We now sell our machines to restaurants, pharmaceutical firms, a wider range of customers."

A human being, according to UN experts, requires about 3.3 cubic metres of water, or 11 litres to meet daily drinking and hygiene needs.

"One challenge now is to lower our costs," Paulino said. "We work on improving our manufacturing processes and energy efficiency. Another problem is the need to import parts from eight different countries, which also has an impact on the price."

Paulino estimates the cost of water produced by his machine at 0.17 reais (about 8 cents) per litre.

Water from Wateair flows, then, at a cost of $77 per cubic metre, compared to $3.30 per cubic metre of water supplied by the utility that serves Sao Paulo.

Paulino said he got a commission from a Middle Eastern country to substitute his machine for a desalination turbine, and he sees this as a chance for a pilot experience and to prove that an even bigger Wateair system might generate "millions" of litres of water.



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