Around the world, 768 million people don’t have access to safe water, and every day 1,400 children under the age of five die from water-based diseases.
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.
The nylon and polypropylene fibers act as a scaffold for condensation and as the droplets of dew form, they follow the mesh into a basin at the base of the structure.
Each pillar is comprised of two sections; a semi-rigid exoskeleton built by tying stalks of juncus or bamboo together and an internal plastic mesh reminiscent of the bags oranges come in.
Italian designer Arturo Vittori has unveiled the WarkaWater Tower, a revoluntionary new way to collect clean drinking water in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa. The artist was inspired by a recent trip to a remote village in northeastern Ethiopia where water collection is often a dangerous and incredibly time-consuming process.
With just a little financial backing, Vittori hopes the innovative WarkaWater Towers, which take advantage of condensation, will provide a more reliable, efficient and sustainable method of water harvesting for local women and their families.
Vittori decided to devote his attention to this problem after visiting northeastern Ethiopia and seeing the plight of remote villagers first hand. “There, people live in a beautiful natural environment but often without running water, electricity, a toilet or a shower,” he says.
Instead of looking to Western technology for a solution, Vittori was inspired by the Warka tree, a giant, gravity-defying domed tree native to Ethiopia that sprouts figs and is used as a community gathering space.
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.
A more obvious solution to a water shortage would be digging a well, but drilling 1,500 feet into Ethiopia’s rocky plateaus is expensive. Even when a well is dug, maintaining pumps and ensuring a reliable electrical connection makes the proposition unlikely.
Vittori hopes to have two WarkaTowers erected in Ethiopia by 2015 and is looking for financial rainmakers who’d like to seed these tree-inspired structures across the country.