O'Vert Dose: Warka Tower, or how to turn air into water in Africa

What if we could do like some insects and plants that have developed the ability to collect and store water present in the air to survive in the most hostile environments?

Well today it is possible thanks to the Warka Tower, or the Warka water tower, an innovation as impressive as it is useful.

Where does the idea come from?

Conceptualized by Arturo Vittori, Italian architect, the Warka Tower is a bamboo tower capable of capturing humidity from the air. The idea came to him when he was at the school of architecture in Addis Ababa, and he saw daily women and children covering tens of kilometers on foot to draw water from unsanitary sources. After the many hours of travel to the nearest source, the recovered water is most often contaminated with human and animal waste.

Shocked, the architect decides to get involved and find a solution for access to water. This is how the Warka Tower project, a bamboo structure designed to collect and harvest drinking water from the air, was born.

The name of the project, “Warka”, comes from the Warka tree, a giant wild fig tree native to Ethiopia. Like the tree, this tower is an important cornerstone for the local community, providing the fundamental resource of water, and providing a social place where people can gather under the shade of its canopy for teaching and public meetings.

With his architecture and vision team, Vittori has since developed a series of experimental prototypes and additional installations, installing his first pilot tower in a rural southern Ethiopian village, Dorze, in May 2015, which continues to grow. be monitored.

How does the Warka Tower work?

The Warka Tower is a lightweight, easy-to-build system that allows fog, moisture, and precipitation to collect on surfaces. Performance depends on weather conditions, but each tower can provide a community with up to 100 liters of water per day.

Consisting of a bamboo frame that supports a polyester mesh material inside, the tower is both inexpensive and easy to build. Atmospheric water vapor from rain, fog or dew condenses against the cool surface of the mesh, forming droplets of liquid water that flow into a reservoir at the bottom of the structure. A fabric canopy shades the lower sections of the tower to prevent collected water from evaporating. Performance depends on weather conditions, but each tower can provide a community with up to 100 liters of water per day.

The Warka tower is made with biodegradable and 100% recyclable materials. The designers’ philosophy is to use local materials and traditional techniques as much as possible. The tower is also designed to be easily built with simple tools and maintained by local villagers without the need for scaffolding or power tools.

This means that a Warka tower can be built in 4 weeks by 8 people and then erected in one day by a team of 16 people. After installation, disassembly and reassembly of the tower for maintenance requires only 2 hours by the same team. In addition, the structure consists of six modules which are mounted together one after the other, from bottom to top.

In total, the installation of a water tower costs between 500 and 1000 dollars, less than a quarter of the cost of grid toilets, the installation of which costs about 2200 dollars and maintenance even more. And because its design is primarily parametric, the Warka Water Tower can be easily adapted and implemented in a variety of different situations.

Other similar projects

The Warka Water project tries to help different isolated communities in places such as Haiti, Madagascar, Colombia, Brazil, India, and even Cameroon. This expansion has not only encouraged experimentation with other local materials, such as palm fronds, but has also led to a series of additional projects that seek to address other important issues.

The project has developed a modular system called W-solar that turns any Warka tower into a source of electricity, adding solar panels to provide lighting and power to charge mobile devices. Then there is W-garden, a system that uses harvested water for food production, and there is also W-toilet for improving sanitation and hygiene. Note that there are currently Warka tower projects in Ethiopia, Haiti and Togo.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Inspired by nature and local traditions, the Warka Tower is an ecological promise to put an end to the problems of access to drinking water. Air always contains a certain amount of water vapor, regardless of ambient temperatures and local humidity conditions, so it is possible for us to produce water from air almost anywhere in the world. , but places where the level of fog or humidity is high obviously remain the most fertile ground for installing these towers.

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