Atmospheric water generators (AWGs) could be one of the solutions used to combat the ever-present threat of droughts and water shortages in South Africa.
This is according to South African entrepreneur Ray De Vries, who founded Air Water – a company that imports and sells AWGs to home users and businesses.
Depending on the model and atmospheric conditions, these machines can produce anywhere from 33 – 10,000 litres of water per day, De Vries told MyBroadband.
Air Water has built five humidity harvesting plants which can generate enough water from the air to fill up to 10,000 x 500ml bottles per day.
“To put this into perspective, that is enough bottled water for the needs of 100 to 200 restaurants,” De Vries explained.
According to De Vries, the smaller machines were very popular in the Eastern Cape – which is in the midst of the fourth drought for which the company has provided its solutions.
“This humidity harvester is the answer to the massive water crisis facing schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and other commercial operations that face closing down in a time of drought,” De Vries said.
The company also exports and supplies water making machines to hotels in Majorca, the Bahamas, Seychelles and has plans for Mauritius and a hotel chain in Texas.
How it works
The AWG machines can be used anywhere that the temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius and humidity levels are over 35%.
They work by drawing air and cooling it down to dew point, where condensation takes place and hydrogen and oxygen are converted into liquid water.
This water is then passed through a multi-step filtration process, sterilised using UV light (and no chlorine or chemicals), and stored.
The water can then be dispensed as and when needed.
The image below illustrates the entire process fr0m drawing the air to ejecting water.
De Vries said that there were various capacity machines to choose from for both home and commercial use.
Home units are typically capable of making between 33 and 150 litres per day and have a power rating of around 350W – about the same as a plasma TV.
The company itself has moved to using multiple smaller machines rather than a single large one that met a particular output requirement.
De Vries said this offered a number of advantages, including:
- More mobility due to lower weight
- Spreading the risk in case of malfunction
- Scalable to various capacities
- Use single phase so can be used in conjunction with solar power sources
- Cheaper cost.
Air Water uses the AW70 to harvest humidity, which allows for generating up to 70 litres of water from the air per day.
“The machines consist of fans, a condenser, UV steriliser, and electronics which include a control panel, sensors, and the like,” De Vries stated.
The AW70 is R14,999 (excl. VAT), and Air Water uses 40 machines per plant.
The price to produce a 500ml bottle of water works out to around 50c, De Vries said, but can vary depending on where you are located.
De Vries said that the company had no primary market apart from drought areas or where the water is so polluted it can’t be used as drinking water.
Examples of use-cases are:
- Marine and yachting to make water whilst moving as opposed to carrying heavy loads of (usually plastic) of water
- Commercial bottling plants supplying hotels and restaurants
- Clinics and schools
- Lodges and resorts
- Kidney dialysis
He added that one of the most satisfying aspects of his business, de Vries said was the fact that for every litre of water consumed from the air it means that a litre has remained in the dams for the use of other South Africans.
“The water is made where it is needed as opposed to taken to where it is needed,” De Vries said.
He added that this meant transportation by vehicles and/or pipeline is eliminated and the water can be generate immediately in the location it is required.
Below are images showing the Air Water’s AWGs and their various components as well as the end result.