More than 1 billion people worldwide are affected by water scarcity, according to a recent designboom.com report. People often travel great distances to gather water and may not be able to rely on the water’s cleanliness.
Arturo Vittori was inspired to create a solution to gathering potable water after visiting northeastern Ethiopia. He observed women and children walking miles to shallow, unprotected ponds where water is often contaminated with animal and human waste.
Vittori designed a bamboo structure to harvest potable water from the air. Warka Water towers are inspired by bio-mimicry and local traditions and take their name from the warka tree, a giant wild fig native to Ethiopia.
The towers are built on a bamboo frame that supports a mesh polyester material inside. Atmospheric water vapor from rain, fog or dew condenses against the cold surface of the mesh, forming water droplets that trickle into a reservoir at the bottom of the structure. A fabric canopy shades the lower sections of the tower to prevent the collected water from evaporating. Performance is weather dependent, but each tower has the potential to provide a community with up to 100 liters of water per day.
Warka Water is designed to be easy to build and inexpensive – a tower is reported to cost between $500 and $1,000 to set up. The towers are owned and operated by villagers and provide not only a life force but a sense of community. People gather under the canopy to share news and for education and public meetings.
The team of designers has also developed a modular system called W-Solar that adds solar panels to a Warka tower to provide illumination and power for recharging mobile devices. W-Garden proposes a modular system that uses harvested water for food production.
Now Warka Water is ramping up operations to include installations in isolated communities in Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Haiti, India, Madagascar, the Indonesian island of Sumba, and Togo.