Air-to-Water Generation (AWG) technology is real; in fact, we have devoted our life and work - separating moisture, and drinking water, from air – and are set to enter Indian markets – both consumer and institutional – in partnership with a Kolkata-based business house, inform Partha Chakraborty & Art Neumann, Founders of Infinite Water, Inc. (IW), an Air to Water Generation technology company based in the US.
Our paths to AWG world were different. Art spent much of his globe-trotting career in the emerging manufacturing companies of China and the Far East, where he managed the development of many products for global sales. Art has a unique background in a broad base of manufacturing disciplines and corporate intelligence. That background made him a consultant on what would be the very water technologies that are patented and represent the leading edge of Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) technologies that became the basis of Infinite Water, Inc. - a pioneer in AWG.
For Partha, who survived floods as a pre-teen, the only source of drinking water for the family was the tube-well shared by many households. The tube-well itself was almost fully submerged in flood water mixed with everything that was above, and below, ground. Life’s lessons convinced both of us that many of the world’s problems can trace their origin to a lack of access to drinking water. In fact, drinking water is a scarce commodity. Only 2.5% of water is fresh, even though 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Only 1% of the fresh water supply is accessible; thereby 0.007% of the water on earth, outside of the atmosphere, is available for over 7 billon people on earth. There is a huge disparity in access to water, by geography and by socio-economic status, among others. The United Nations estimates that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will have to live with water scarcity, and almost two thirds will be living in water stressed regions.
We need to look up when we talk about solving water access for the masses, literally.
It is estimated that the atmosphere contains 37.5 million billion gallons of pure drinkable water, which is replenished naturally every single minute. Atmospheric currents drive billions of gallons of water from the oceans’ surfaces to land-locked regions every single day, even if the ocean’s water is not drinkable. Much of that comes down as rain, about one billon tons of it every single day on an average; a tiny portion of which is available to us as drinking water, whereas much of it finds its way back into the oceans – thereby completing the cycle. If all of the atmospheric water is to fall as rain it would have covered the entire earth’s surface in a 1-inch deep puddle.
Since every drop of atmospheric water is drinkable, it gives us an idea of how much we can do to help solve the water crisis.
The challenge is technical, of course. We have been separating moisture from air for decades, in principle - every single dehumidifier does that. Typically, the process used is refrigerant based, which is expensive and not ecologically friendly. It does not necessarily have to be so, but your dehumidifier unit is not there to solve your water problems. IWI offers a wide range of thermos-dynamic solutions that are reflected in their patents and proprietary technologies. AWG technologies vary, but most are still plagued by lack of economy, issues with scalability, and possible contamination, among others.
Our benchmark residential units look and feel like a household water cooler. In the Southern California weather it produces a little under 5 gallons of pure drinkable water per day, enough for a family of four per CDC guidelines. In much of India, the yield is expected to be higher. Our technology is scalable, and we have versions in prototype that multiplies the yield, potentially very useful for restaurants, office complexes, hotels and convention centers, the shipping and cruise industry, military establishments, off-grid living, and so on.
It may be difficult to bulk it up to serve as a single source of drinking water for an entire city, but thousands of smaller units in every home can easily complement the available municipal water supply of a metropolis. Our Indian partner is very involved with public-private initiatives in municipal water supply – already supplying over 100 million gallons of water per day combined in multiple establishments dotting the map.
None of us forecasts that AWG technology will replace municipal water supplies in our cities. What we do predict, and aim for, is giving families water that is pure and readily available; in assuring the municipal authority that its constituent is not left dry when a major repair work is under way; for elected representatives in the Center and States to know that there are solutions to water shortage that do not come with a million-dollar price tag; and that our basic need for a glass of pure water can be met, easily.