Making water from air

The finished water-making unit with sandbags holding it down and the water collection tank at left. Photo: Dustin Langidrik.
The finished water-making unit with sandbags holding it down and the water collection tank at left. Photo: Dustin Langidrik.

A project to harvest fresh water using simple and affordable equipment was this month officially handed over to the grateful community of Ailuk Atoll, which regularly suffers from drought conditions.

In March and April last year, Dustin Langidrik, the University of the South Pacific’s Climate Change project coordinator worked with British environment researchers Andrew Tweedie and Gavin Allwright to build a series of differently designed water harvesters to see which style worked most efficiently on the atoll.  To do this, 52 units were built and placed next to houses around the main village of Ailuk. Three of the designs were declared the best and one, the ‘hoop system’ was one of the easiest to make. Five RMI-USP students spent a week learning the new technologies before accompanying the experts to Ailuk to assist with the project implementation.  A follow up visit was made in January 2016 to complete the implementation and the monitor the use of earlier installations.

“The people were very happy with the units, but they asked us to build bigger ones for the community centers and churches,” Dustin said. The household units use about six gallons of salt water to produce up to  half a gallon of fresh water every 12 hours. The systems use evaporation and condensation of the salt water, which is collected from the lagoon near the shore to produce the fresh water. “The water next to the shore has the least concentration of salt in it,” Dustin explained.

“The units we made on my most recent visit were about 10 feet in length and have the potential to produce up to three gallons of fresh water in 12 hours from 10 to 12 gallons of saltwater. They were placed next to the community center, the clinic, the airport terminal and the churches and they will also be installed at households when needed”

The project was sponsored by the USP and EU Global Climate Change Alliance and the UNDP’s GEF Small Grants Program and has been monitored on the atoll by the non-government Ailuk Ook Local Fisheries Committee and the local government. “They report back to me on a regular basis,” Dustin said. “Everyone has been very happy with the project.” On the downside, a number of storms destroyed some of the units while others had been set up near children’s play areas and they managed to break some of the units.

“Right now there are 10 units making water on a regular basis,” Dustin said and he expects that with the current lack of rain, more will be taken out of temporary storage.

Read more about this in the February 5, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.