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The answer to water scarcity may be in the air

Pedro Paulino and his WateAir invention (photo from celuloseonline.com.br)

Rio de Janeiro, Oct 22 (EFE).- A Brazilian engineer has designed a machine capable of producing 5,000 liters (1,325 gallons) of drinking water a day by condensing humidity from the air and processing it to make it suitable for human consumption.

Since 2010, Pedro Ricardo Paulino has sold 200 of his Wateair devices introduced to the markets just as the southern Brazilian state of Sao Paulo entered a crisis due to insufficient water supplies.

“All this machine needs to work is a source of electric power and an air humidity level over 10 percent,” Paulino told Efe. “Pollution in the air doesn’t matter at all since solid particles are not present in vaporized water.”

Paulino, who said he has invested more than $1 million of his own money over the past four years to develop the apparatus, offers Wateair in two versions: one, sized as an office filtering system, can produce 15 liters (four gallons) of drinking water daily, while the full-size device has a capacity for 5,000 liters (1,325 gallons) per day.

The office-sized version sells for 7,000 reais ($3,180), while the bigger version has a price tag of 350,000 reais ($160,000).

“Initially, our clients were mostly schools or individuals who needed modest volumes of drinking water,” the engineer said. “We now sell our machines to restaurants, pharmaceutical firms, a wider range of customers.”

A human being, according to United Nations experts, requires about 3.3 cubic meters of water, or 11 liters (29 gallons) to meet daily drinking and hygiene needs.

“One challenge now is to lower our costs,” Paulino said. “We work on improving our manufacturing processes and energy efficiency. Another problem is the need to import parts from eight different countries, which also has an impact on the price.”

Paulino estimates the cost of water produced by his machine at 0.17 reais (about 8 cents) per liter ($0.20 cents per gallon).

Water from Wateair flows, then, at a cost of $77 per cubic meter, compared to $3.30 per cubic meter of water supplied by the utility that serves Sao Paulo.

Paulino said he got a commission from a Middle Eastern country to substitute his machine for a desalination turbine, and he sees this as a chance for a pilot experience and to prove that an even bigger Wateair system might generate “millions” of liters of water.