Cape Town water crisis

The ongoing Cape Town water crisis is not news, but what is – is a breakthrough device developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which literally pulls water our of the atmosphere and is powered only by sunlight.

The water harvester is big enough for domestic use and at this stage, is capable of producing 2.8 liters of water over a 12 hour period. That doesn’t equate to being able to fill your swimming pool thanks to its efforts to easily now, but considering that this is a completely off-grid machine and is essentially producing clean water out of thin air – that’s damn impressive.

“This is a major breakthrough in the long-standing challenge of harvesting water from the air at low humidity,” said Omar Yaghi, one of two senior authors of the paper, who holds the James and Neeltje Tretter chair in chemistry at UC Berkeley and is a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “There is no other way to do that right now, except by using extra energy. Your electric dehumidifier at home ‘produces’ very expensive water.” via

As we have said before, the water issue in the Western Cape is not a one off problem that we are facing now. As urbanisation increases in the decades to come and climate change affects us as a region, water scarcity will be the new normal. Technology like this device could be the difference between the long term feasibility of the existence of a city like Cape Town being possible or not.

It certainly won’t be the only solution, but it might be a good idea for somebody at the City of Cape Town to shoot an email through to MIT so see how this kind of technology application can be tested at scale over here – sooner rather than later.