Water From A Billboard
December 22, 2013

Water From A Billboard

Of all the problems that plague the various parts of our world, a lack of clean drinking water is certainly amidst the top. As one of the most crucial aspects of our basic physiology, water is a desperately needed resource that simply cannot be substituted. If you don’t have water, you’ll die. That’s the end of that.

Several locations in Peru, including the capital city of Lima and the nearby village Bujama, have to deal with this problem on a regular basis. Though they are located on the coast, their geographical classification is still desert, and many people suffer from a lack of clean, potable water. Local residents have taken to digging wells, but even this water source leaves much to be desired. These wells are often plagued with pollution, leaving residents to make the impossible decision between dehydration and dirty water. Catching rainwater is out of the question, thanks to the low levels of precipitation, but the atmospheric humidity consistently hovers around 98 percent.

Inspired by the high levels of humidity and poor water access, Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) built a billboard that doubles as a drinking fountain. According to Popular Mechanics, using the same kind of condenser system you might find in an A/C unit, the billboards take the humidity in the air and convert it into water. This water is stored in one five tanks, each of which can hold about six gallons. From there, the water is channeled through a reverse-osmosis purifier into a single tank. Each of these billboards is capable of producing over 800 gallons of water in a single month, which is more than enough to provide for several hundred families. Surprisingly, these billboards aren’t nearly as expensive as one might think. The installation process only runs about $1200, and the fact that the whole process takes place inside a billboard gives it a built-in revenue stream. Can you imagine how attractive a pitch that would be to advertisers? Most billboards have to rely on wandering eyes, boredom, or exceptional placement to draw attention. Water-producing billboards wouldn’t have that issue at all. Not only can are they guaranteed to draw attention, but there is the added benefit of being part of a beneficiary resource for the community. It’s truly a win-win scenario for any would-be advertiser.

Since this project’s unveiling, attendance at UTEC has risen by about 28%, and the project has certainly drawn quite a bit of attention. The University hasn’t yet determined whether or not they’ll be selling the technology outside of their own purview, but at the very least it has opened a fantastic dialogue on providing clean water through unorthodox means such as these. Other companies, such as the French-run Eole, have also been examining environmentally-powered drinking solutions, having already installed a wind-powered turbine in Abu Dhabi that generates water through compression and condensation.

With approximately one billion people lacking access to clean drinking and bathing water worldwide, this is certainly a promising step towards a healthier future.

Image Credit: Milena Vuckovic / Shutterstock

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