Brilliant WarkaWater Towers Collect Drinking Water from Thin Air in Ethiopia

by , 04/05/14

Arturo Vittori, WarkaWater Towers, Ethiopia, large water basket, africa, water resources, water design, Ethiopian water shortage, bamboo water towers, clean water initiatives, practical design, Warka tree

Throughout many remote villages in Ethiopia, water gathering is quite an ardous and dangerous task. With the burden typically falling on matriarchs of the family, the trip to the nearest water source can take hours if not all day. More often than not, that water fetched on these long journeys is commonly contaminated with dangerous elements such as human and animal waste. Additionally, many women have little choice but to bring their young children along, which not only puts them in harm’s way, but also keeps them out of school.

Related: Water-Storing Himalaya Towers Take First Place in 2012 eVolo Skyscraper Competition

The WarkaWater Towers were inspired by the local Warka tree, a large fig tree native to Ethiopia that is commonly used as a community gathering space. The large 30 foot, 88 pound structures are made out of juncus stalks or bamboo woven together to form the tower’s vase-like frame. Inside, a plastic mesh material made of nylon and polypropylene fibers act as micro tunnels for daily condensation. As droplets form, they flow along the mesh pattern into the basin at the base of the towers. By harvesting atmospheric water vapor in this way, it’s estimated that at least 25 gallons of potable water can be sustainably and hygienically collected by the towers every day.

“WarkaWater is designed to provide clean water as well as ensure long-term environmental, financial and social sustainability,” he says. “Once locals have the necessary know how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the WarkaWater towers.” Each tower costs approximately $550 and can be built in under a week with a four person team and locally available materials.

Related: Lotus-Shaped Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper Harvests Rainwater to Fight Fires in the Amazon

Vittori hopes to build two working towers in Ethiopia by 2015 and is hoping to find financial backers who also believe that safe-water harvesting is a right that should be afforded to everyone.

+ Arturo Vittori

Via Wired

Photography by Gabriele Rigon and Arturo Vittori

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  1. Robert Howes June 13, 2015 at 12:20 am

    What happened to the very cheap solar polythene tube towers that evaporate dirty water and condense it into drinking water? Not atmospheric but good when there is dirty water available and plenty of sunshine. Warkawater towers could be part of the mix. And old pop bottles filled with river water and left in the sun to sterilise. They are cheap. No one solution on its own is enough. Horses for courses.

  2. Dave Barney June 9, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    there are sure a lot of neasayers on here. every body should back off and give this a chance, it might really work. after a few is put up and it don’t work at least somebody tried.

  3. Bprophetable May 5, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    There is a metre of water in the sky above the planet. As the dessert cools, the moisture in the air condenses, some can be captured. Dessert plants do this all the time.
    This object will blow away in a strong wind.
    This is the cloud forest strategy, they used 2 layers of mesh from onion bags which rub together to run the water droplets down the mesh. Theirs are set out on poles.
    A pile of rocks with a plastic sheet angled to a drain will do the same job. A rock wall around the edge to keep out animals is necessary.
    Nice art project. Too flimsy.

  4. Paul Coster May 5, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I’m sorry but I just don’t believe it. What is the water productivity of the prototype in the pictures? For water to condense out of air doesn’t the air need to be cooled? How does this occur? Is the prototype on display anywhere?

  5. Emett Stasiuk April 24, 2015 at 2:01 am

    So Good. I love it. Cycles of water and life will feedback in a positive loop with this type of design. Maybe recycled plastics and our wasteful little bottles come into play to save the day, keep it cheap and accessible…

  6. Jazz Witherspoon April 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Just curious why they are not planting Warka trees? Surely the trees can get water in the ground, no?

  7. Charles Sonder April 23, 2015 at 10:01 am

    25 gallons a day? In the desert? hmmm. I’m skeptical.

  8. Craig Schaffer April 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    This is fantastic! This is real progress in every sense. Thank You!!!!

  9. Steph Walker April 22, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    We need these in SoCal, too!

  10. Jessica Ashleigh April 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    How can people donate to this?

  11. Samantha Homerding February 1, 2015 at 6:46 am

    So you are saying if i take some bamboo, string, and sew some left over potatoe and citrus sacks together i can collect water and it will cost me 550 dollars?

  12. samson January 25, 2015 at 1:35 am

    Good job, this really could help the people around there.
    Samson, Solar Energy Foundation

  13. Ray Lutz January 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Just an idea but looks promising. Only big problem is that the mesh inside is not hand-made locally but something a factory has to produce. Still, these look relatively cheap and the water is not contaminated.

    A better design would basically cost nothing… harvest sticks from local supply and weave the mesh material using plant fibers. The statement “locally available materials” isn\\\’t quite accurate if you need to use “a plastic mesh material made of nylon and polypropylene fibers”…

    Until those design defects are corrected, this is not ready for prime time, and I would suggest that the need is so dire that the design should be provided for free so these can be built wherever they will actually work.

  14. Muzzafar Iqbal December 8, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I am a Pakistan based, 71 years old chemical engineer. I want to use WarkaWater Towers for Pakistam’s Thar desert. Could you please supply to me dimensional design through my email–
    Thanks and Regards.

  15. Ananthanarayanan A L December 1, 2014 at 11:16 am

    How to contact Mr Arturo Vittori?
    I’m from India.

  16. brianstewart October 25, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I would like to buy a unite. How can go about # 1 250 462 1151

  17. The Raw Food Times August 27, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I would love to have one built in the small town we are moving to in Vilcabamba Ecuador

  18. April Wheeler August 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    There is no way that costs $500 to make. Shame on him for profiteering off people so desperately in need of water that something like this would have such value to them, and then milking them for it.

  19. Brad Withyman July 23, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Those who think this is a good idea are clueless about just what it’s really like to live in these communities and environments. Its a unviable concept and at $550 totally unaffordable. For that price you can run water hose pipe for 4km. Did Arturo ask the villagers for ideas? They give more thought to water collection than an Italian tourist could ever.

  20. Heidi Stephenson July 22, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Does it work?

  21. Muse Atlabachew May 29, 2014 at 6:34 am

    This sounds promising!!

  22. Tafline Laylin May 6, 2014 at 11:45 am

    You can contact the designer directly:

  23. Azaria Berhe May 6, 2014 at 4:35 am

    We wated to try i our area but could not find any contact person on the website.

  24. Bonnie Smith Author April 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    why not check with the students at MIT?

  25. Bonnie Smith Author April 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Why not put little strips of plastic alternating or weaving from the top to the bottom. This would catch more condensation …..Just like plastic wrap that catches condensation and drips into a cup…. out in the desert.

  26. mariomario April 25, 2014 at 7:13 am

    There will be more water to collect on your car’s windows in the morning out of dew and frosting than will ever be out this thing. It is just BS!!

  27. krishnandharmaraj April 21, 2014 at 5:30 am

    I wish someone could suggest any plant in India which could be used as WarkaWater plant-collection to obviate the necessity of rural ( also at places in urban India where women face similar problem and have to walk a long distance once may be more number of times daily ) to collect enough potable water for their family requirement )

  28. justben April 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    100% unverified. So far there’s only a photo rendering and a claim. I’m very doubtful that this would actually produce much water at all.

  29. Live Peace Woodstock April 8, 2014 at 12:02 am

    this is so in touch with our planet

  30. NinaPps Gr April 6, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Those of you who are interested in working with Arturo, there is a direct link for you to get in contact with him… Reach out and click on his name!!!

  31. RelayerM31 April 6, 2014 at 8:18 am

    All we need now is Luke Skywalker zipping out in his speeder to one of the moisture collectors for Uncle Owen. (Am I the only one who thought this?)

    3D print these babies and you’re all set.

  32. cebrady79 April 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I am interested to see how this will really work. I have a school in Mexico that could use the system. Christine Brady

  33. missionary alice April 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I work as a missionary in Kenya, Kisumu area, and there are many places that could use this idea. Do you have plans and instructions that we could make use of??

  34. Metadel Hailu April 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

    it\\\’s just a more than a brilliant design solution for those who are suffer by gathering water and in the area that lacks of water! I\\\’m a graduated architect and urban planner and i love to work with you. if you will.

  35. saraennor April 3, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Mr. Vittori – Have you thought to work with a Rotary Club to fund such a project? Do you have an organization that facilitates the organizing and building of these towers? SE, Rotary Club of San Leandro California

  36. Isac Galvão April 3, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Bravo, Vittori!

  37. gerarddm April 3, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Yes, drive that cost down. Speaking of Dune, are stillsuits next?

  38. Odair April 3, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Maravilhoso! Parabéns!

  39. April 3, 2014 at 10:20 am

    They are so revolutionary, Frank Herbert even wrote a book called Dune about them! Oh wait, that was fifty years ago 😉

  40. thoughtfission April 3, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Sounds like a job for kickstarter!

  41. Steven Tu April 3, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Brillant idea and good design. Now, how do you drive the cost of building one down to $50 instead of $500. With local material and cheap labor there, it should be relatively low cost production.

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