From the Newsroom

On Saturday, with the humidity at 14 per cent, the solar-powered Watergen machine produced water with a “flavour as good as it gets”, the Brewhouse Café posted on Clean Waters FB page. (l-r) Phil Teal, Will Jefferies, Armen Arakelian and Narelle Wilson (CVC’s recovery and resilience planning coordinator). Image: Contributed

Precious water from the air

Geoff Helisma

Imagine you’re living in a remote desert or community, the closest well is kilometres away; there’s a drought and the soil is fine and dry enough to pass through an hourglass; or the air is toxic due to industrial emissions – you’re thirsty, but the bottled water ran out two days ago.

Or, as WaterNSW puts it: “More than 97 per cent of the world’s water is salty; nearly two per cent is locked up in snow and ice; less than one percent is available as freshwater on the earth’s surface in our rivers and lakes.”

In Grafton on Sunday and Monday, November 14 and 15, Armen Arakelian (CEO) and Will Jefferies (director), from Clean Waters Oceania exhibited a machine, manufactured by Israeli company Watergen, that “uses condensation as a means of producing fresh water”.

Watergen says it has “become the global leader in the atmospheric drinking water devices market”. Earlier this year, for example, the United Arab Emirates installed the machines at Abu Dhabi’s parks and beaches and, following an analysis, the Abu Dhabi Municipality said, “The quality of water … was found to be ‘excellent’.”

“In optimal conditions one of these machines, at about 23 to 26 degrees Celsius with about 60 per cent relative humidity, will produce up to 1,000 litres a day,” said Mr Arakelian, who is “keen to try the technology in the Outback over the next couple of weeks”.

“When the humidity drops to about 20 per cent or lower … we’re still able to achieve roughly about 350 to 500 litres.

“But it’s not distilled water … the dispensed water is mineralised to an optimal level for health and well-being.”

What about polluted atmospheres?

“They’ve had these machines operating in New Delhi, where you’ve got some of the most polluted air in the world,” Mr Arakelian said, “the mechanisms that these machines have, both from the air and water filtration perspectives, create the same standard of water anywhere, anytime.”

Why pick Grafton for your first Australian demo?

“We have a connection up in Grafton, Phil Teal, who works in the environmental space; he took an interest at the outset of the business,” said Mr Jefferies.

“I contacted him and said, ‘Mate, you’re up in Grafton where you have problems with bushfires and flooding, etcetera, we should get it up there for the first showcase’.

Mr Jefferies said his company “only started in June, but the road ahead is promising”.

“We believe in the mantra of ‘protecting the environment and building resilience in communities when it comes to water, greens [food plants] and energy, we believe that we can achieve that through innovative technology.

“As a social enterprise, we want to get these machines out to rural and regional Australia and indigenous communities as soon as possible.

“In the medium to long term, we see this as being manufactured in Australia – we’re seeking partners who would be interested in working with us to produce decentralised water, food and energy sources.”

Has your start-up company attracted any government support?

“At the moment we’re working with bureaucrats and members of parliament, to try and get this technology implemented in rural and regional communities,” Mr Jefferies said.

Tel Aviv University researchers found that water generated by the machine, “in the heart of an urban area” in Tel Aviv, “complied with all of the strict drinking water standards set both by the State of Israel and by the World Health Organization”.