Californian team scoops $1.5m prize with machine that harvests water from air

A $1.5m prize for the best design of water harvester has been won by a team from Malibu, California, who beat 98 entries from 27 countries with its "Skywater" machine.

The Water Abundance competition, launched in 2016 by competition organiser XPrize, ws looking to improve global water security, one of the principal threats of global warming.

David Hertz and his wife Laura Doss-Hertz, together with their business partner Richard Groden, formed the Skysource/Skywater Alliance to take the project forward.

They came up with a machine built a machine out of shipping containers and fuelled by wood chips, that can condense 2,000 litres of water a day at a cost of about two cents a litre. It is a scaled-up version of a smaller machine that Hertz used to create 150 gallons a day, much of which he gave to homeless people living near the offices of his company, the Studio of Environmental Architecture.

In the final stage of the competition Hertz’s team was up against the JMCC Wing team from Hawaii, which used an innovative design of wind turbine to power a condenser unit.

Hertz told the ABC Eyewitness News: "One of the fascinating things about shipping containers is that more are imported than exported, so there’s generally a surplus. And if there’s no wood chips around for heat, coconut husks, rice, walnut shells, grass clippings or just about any other such waste product will do just fine."

Hertz said he would use the prize money to deploy the machines "to get them to people who need water the most".

Image: David Hertz harvesting water in Big Sur, California. This small Skywater 150 version produces up to 150 gallons a day (XPrize)

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