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Peter Getty is a philanthropist and contributing blogger for the Huffington Post. His work and writings revolve around environmental issues. Getty's philanthropic initiatives, as well as the organizations he supports, are committed to protecting the environment and spreading environmental awareness.

WarkaWater Towers for Ethiopia…and California?

peter getty warkawaterPeter Getty’s latest article in the Huffington Post starts in the mountain villages of Ethiopia. Water there is scarce. Women spend much of their days there walking miles along busy roadways to collect water for basic needs. Often the closest water is in a pond with human waste. Heavy containers are filled and carried back to their village, where the contaminated water can cause disease and death.  It is estimated that 40 billion hours are spent walking for drinking water every year. Unsafe water in Ethiopia is responsible for two million deaths each year, more than violence and war, with children making up the majority of that number.

Enter Arturo Vittori, who has designed a sustainable way for harnessing water vapor from the atmosphere, turning it into potable water. This economical invention could have a huge impact on the way of life for millions in Ethiopia.  The contraption is called WarkaWater, named after a fig tree native to Ethiopia. Like the Warka tree, the invention stands thirty feet tall and held together by a bamboo exoskeleton. Inside, a mesh of polypropylene plastic and nylon fibers are draped to gather condensation from the atmosphere. The droplets form, then fall down the mesh into a basin where water is collected.

Constructions like this have existed for a long time, but Vittori’s project is the first time it has been proposed on such a large scale. Because of the large size, each tower should be able to gather 25 gallons of clean water every day, even in a desert climate. At $550 each, the towers are much cheaper than other programs designed by businesses for sustainable water solutions. The towers will be available to villages by 2016, and many are hoping it will help save lives on a large scale.

And if these towers could be part of a solution for water salvation in Ethiopia’s dry desert climes, who’s to say we couldn’t use them in California?  The drought on the US’s west coast doesn’t compare to the dryness of Ethiopia, but a new, sustainable source of fresh water could be valuable.  Buildings that use solar panels to generate electricity could use those to supplement the city water being piped to the building, harnessing water right from the atmosphere.  There isn’t much talk about the use of WarkaWater towers in the United States yet, but assuming the California drought continues to worsen, we may need to start looking for alternative solutions.

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