By David E. Kaplan
If Moses brought forth water for the People of Israel in the desert by striking a stone, today’s Israelites are striking water from the air.
This should be good news for much of the world, particularly Africa.
Checking into my room at a top hotel in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2017, I was astounded to see that covering the plughole in the bath was a plastic yellow duck with a red beak.
“That’s cute”, I thought, “probably for the kids to play with.”
The duck was in lieu of a bath plug and, on the wall, was a notice stating that due to the severe water shortage in Cape Town, they were kindly asking the guests to take a shower instead of a bath. However, should the guest prefer a bath, “We request that you come to the reception desk with your duck and in exchange you will receive a plug.”
On the underside of the duck was the hotel suite number.
To avoid embarrassment, my guess is few guests opted for a bath!
This indicated the ‘depth’ of the water crisis in South Africa at the time.
However, thankfully to rainfall in 2018, the City of Cape Town said on its web site earlier in 2018 that Day Zero had been “pushed out to 2019.”
The reality is that because of infrequent rainfall and unsophisticated water management, many regions of Africa are facing a water crisis.
In 2015, NASA’s satellite data revealed that 21 of the world’s 37 large aquifers are severely water-stressed. With growing populations, and increased demands from agriculture and industry, researchers indicated that this crisis is only likely to worsen.
The Red Line
Just as wars over oil played a major role in 20th century history, many today argue that water is surpassing oil as the world’s scarcest critical resource and predict that many 21st century conflicts will be fought over water. One such prophet of doom is Rajendra Singh, known as the “water man of India,” who has said “The third world war is at our gate, and it will be about water, if we don’t do something about this crisis.”
It was not such a long time ago when Israelis would ask daily:
“What is the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)?” It was an everyday concern and conversation piece.
Sadly, it was never a question whether it was below the ‘Red Line’ – only by how much below!
So dire was the water situation in Israel.
On the brink of a water catastrophe, Israeli authorities ran relentless ad campaigns urging its citizens to conserve water even as it raised prices and cut supplies to agriculture.
They never introduced Cape Town’s duck idea!
Those days are over.
Following the building of desalination plants, Israel has shown that one of the driest countries on earth now makes more freshwater than it needs.
It was time for Israel to focus on helping other countries.
There is a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ that reads “Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink…”
The image is of a sailor on a becalmed ship, surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.
Today, because of Israeli ingenuity, there is water potentially everywhere.
From the remote corners of India and Vietnam, to the palm-lined streets of Miami-Dade County, one Israeli company is doing what was once thought unthinkable – extracting safe, inexpensive potable water from the air we breathe.
“We created a product that can really be the next major source of drinking water,” says Maxim Pasik, Executive Chairman of Rishon LeZion-based Watergen.
Fired up after his visit to Africa in mid-2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced to the world from the podium of the UN when he addressed the General Assembly in September, about Israel transforming air into water. He was thinking specifically how Watergen’s revolutionary product could be used in various parts of Africa.
Earlier in 2017, Watergen made headlines at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC when American lawyer, author and Harvard Law Professor Emeritus, Alan Dershowitz, spotlighted this unimaginable achievement when he presented the company’s GENius device, generating water out of thin air on stage.
It was time for the people on the ‘world stage’ to get a taste of things to come.
Where better than in the most populous nation in the world – India.
Following the official opening in September of ‘Drinking Water from the Air for the People of India’ in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon, and the Chairman of the New Delhi Municipal Council, Naresh Kumar, the citizens of New Delhi were invited to sample the future. For an entire month they could enjoy, free of charge, Watergen’s clean drinking water from the air at the entrance to Charkha Museum in Connaught Place.
“Watergen is proud to be a partner in the long-standing and fruitful cooperation between Israel and India. We will make great strides in changing the lives of the citizens of India for the better and provide clean and safe drinking water from the air,” says Pasik.
Watergen’s cutting-edge and patented GENius technology provides a low cost, abundant and renewable source of fresh and clean drinking water by extracting it directly from the atmosphere. It is a plug and drink solution, requiring only electricity and no infrastructure. The company has also sought alternative energy sources for areas with little or no electricity.
For every community size, “We can provide drinking water from the air in the most cost effective, efficient manner to produce the healthiest, and cleanest tasting drinking water,” says Pasik. The Large Scale unit produces up to 6,000 liters of clean drinking water each day, the mid-scale GEN-350 unit up to 650 liters each day, and the Genny home unit up to 30 liters each day, all based on an average temperature of 27°C with relative humidity of 60%.
Providing fresh pure water directly from the atmosphere, “at prices that are up to ten times cheaper than local filtered well water (at developing world prices), we are talking about a game changer for many tens of millions who only have access to contaminated drinking water,” says Pasik.
Regarding rural areas where there might be no access to electricity, the company has come up with a battery-operated solution. Using a reverse osmosis process for filtration and purification, the battery-operated device has a water purification capacity of 1,200 liters a day, so it can serve villages or areas that need water in emergency situations.
Committed to solving India’s drinking water crisis, Watergen is meeting the global demand for clean and safe drinking water in regions all over the world with joint ventures in India, the U.S., Latin American countries including Brazil and Mexico, as well as Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, CIS countries, African countries, and China.
In the U.S., Watergen is speaking with officials at federal and state levels to set up preventative measures against contaminated water sources. “We are committed to ensure every human being has access to their right to clean and safe drinking water,” says Pasik.
Which is exactly what Pasik affirmed to UN Secretary General António Guterres during his official UN trip to Israel in August 2017. Pasik expressed that Watergen can meet as many as 11 of the 17 UN 2030 Sustainability Development Goals, urging: “We do not have to wait until 2030. This solution is immediate. Time is human lives. Watergen‘s technology will improve the lives of billions and save the lives of millions around the world.”
Also in 2017, Watergen’s humanitarian and environmental efforts were underscored when it worked with the American Red Cross and FEMA to assist people first in Texas and then in Florida by providing clean and safe drinking water in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Supported by Watergen technicians, two large scale and two mid-size GEN-350 units were set up in Port Arthur, Texas where a water reservoir had been contaminated by Hurricane Harvey denying the local community access to safe drinking water. In response to Hurricane Irma, and with the direction of FEMA and the American Red Cross, Watergen then moved operations from Texas to Florida.
While Watergen is ready to respond “Anytime, Anywhere,” when faced with emergencies, “we must respond even faster,” said Pasik. “We are gratified to have been able to bring some stability to the people in both Florida and Texas during this difficult time by providing clean and safe drinking water from the air.”
His Head Above Water
Situated in Rishon LeZion, in central Israel, Watergen was set up in 2009 by entrepreneur Arye Kohavi, a former combat reconnaissance company commander in the Israeli Army.
The technology, developed by Kohavi and his cadre of engineers, uses a series of filters to purify the air. After the air is sucked in and chilled to extract its humidity, the water that forms is treated and transformed into clean drinking water. The technology uses a plastic heat exchanger rather than an aluminum one, which helps reduce costs.
“The atmospheric water generators developed by Watergen allow the production of four liters of drinking water (one gallon) using 1 Kilowatt of energy,” says Pasik.
“Other atmospheric water generating devices, by comparison,” avers Pasik, “consume three to four times more energy, or effectively three to four times less water per energy unit.” As the price of water is influenced by the price of electricity, “this makes Watergen cheaper than similar solutions offered by other companies.”
While Watergen‘s water is still more expensive than desalinated water, “it is the best and cheapest alternative when desalinated water cannot be used because of poor infrastructure.” For developed markets, the Watergen solution is much cheaper than mineral and purified water in bottles, and avoids the use of plastic bottles which are an environmental hazard.
“If pipes are damaged, you cannot drink the water because of pollution. Underdeveloped countries have a lot of problems with their water infrastructure. In developed locations, like Michigan, California and Illinois, the pipes are very old,” says Pasik. In the U.S. the infrastructure will be changed, but it will take time. “In the meantime,” says Pasik, “we can provide the alternative solution for drinking water. People may shower with pipe water, but can drink water from our products.”
Tapping Into Air. Invited by the U.S. Marine Corps and National Guard, Watergen participated in a 3-state emergency responder drill alongside ZAKA (voluntary community emergency response teams across Israel) in May 2017 showing the Israeli company’s ability to dispense clean and safe drinking water during a crisis.
With unsafe water being responsible for more death than war, Israeli ingenuity provides a lifeboat. Instead of searching below for solutions, Watergen found it above – in our atmosphere – and devised a way to ‘tap’ into this unlimited resource.
Watergen hopes to improve the quality of life of billions who suffer from poor water sanitation or accessibility to safe drinking water. “This is a humanitarian issue,” says Pasik. “We would like to maintain peace between people and save people’s lives. The project is priceless and is huge.”
Proud that “this solution comes from Israel,” he adds “This is a Kiddush Hashem (Hebrew for sanctification of God’s name) and tikkun olam (Hebrew for repairing the world)”.
Which only goes to show that sometimes the solutions to problems are staring us right in the face!