Can Iowa benefit from new water technology?

Ronna LawlessStaff Writer

I’m excited about a water collection method I learned about over the weekend. Let me tell you a little bit about it and why I think it would beneficial in Iowa, and how ultimately it might help me have more Good Hair Days.

There is a new water tower that is being used in Ethiopia. Designed by a man named Arturo Vittori, this invention is called the Warka Water Tower. Each tower can pull water out of thin air — more than 25 gallons a day.

And it’s clean water, ready to drink, which is a huge deal in that part of the world where finding potable water can be a six-hour journey.

In fact, a group called the Water Project, estimates that people in the region spend 40 billion hours a year in the pursuit of water collection. When they find it, it’s often contaminated and unsafe for drinking.

Leaving home to find water is also a safety issue, and women are sometimes assaulted on their journeys.

So the water scarcity issue is an important one and it affects nearly 1 billion people in Africa. Even the most dire circumstances in the United States pale in comparison to this, but our water sources and water quality are still important concerns for Americans. You don’t have to look any farther than Detroit’s lead problem or California’s drought to see that we face growing problems of both quantity and quality of H2O.

Now, imagine a 30-foot tall tower, shaped like a vase. It looks like a piece of art, but in reality it pulls water from the air. The carefully placed curves of the structure and the building materials help collect water.

There is a rigid structure on the outside of the tower — a curvy cage made of juncus stalks, a type of rush plant that is indigenous to Ethiopia. But I’m wondering if we could do the same thing with cornstalks or switchgrass or something similar that we grow here in the state.

Inside the Warka tower, there is a mesh net made of nylon that collects droplets of dew. As cold air condenses, the droplets roll to the container at the bottom of the tower. From there, a tube takes the water to a spigot for use.

And one of the beauties of this water tower is that it costs about $500. No drilling, no water treatment — it’s one of the most intriguing inventions I’ve read about in a long time.

Recently, I’ve been learning about wind energy and solar energy and electric cars. It seems more and more feasible to get off the grid, or to at least decrease our reliance on it.

Iowa has the potential to be a leader in the U.S. for these alternatives because we have such an abundance of wind and sun and biodegradable materials. And, boy, do we have humidity! Imagine how much water we might be able to pull from the air.

And this brings me to the way Warka towers all over Iowa might help my vanity. Imagine thousands of Warkas all over the state, pulling water out of our air. Maybe it could have a positive effect on how frizzy my hair gets in the summer. That’s what I would call a win-win.

Ronna Lawless is a staff writer for the Nevada Journal and Tri-County Times. You can email her at rlawless@nevadaiowajournal.com or follow her on Twitter, @ronna67.