BENICIA, Calif. (AP) – The machine Ted Bowman helped design can make water from the air, and in parched California, some homeowners are already buying the expensive devices.
Air-to-water systems work like air conditioners by using coils to cool the air and then collect the water drops in a basin.
“Our motto is that the water in the air isn’t magic, it’s science, and that’s really what we do with these machines,” said Ted Bowman, Design Engineer at Tsunami Products. , based in Washington State.
The system is one of many that have been developed in recent years to extract water from moisture in the air. Other inventions include mesh nets, solar panels, and shipping containers that collect moisture from the air.
Bowman said his company’s machines – designed for use in homes, offices, ranches and elsewhere – dehumidify the air and, in so doing, create water that is filtered to make it drinkable.
The technology works particularly well in foggy areas and, depending on the size, can produce between 200 gallons (900 liters) and 1900 gallons (8,600 liters) of water per day. The machines also work efficiently in all areas with high humidity, including the California coastline, he said.
The machines don’t come cheap, with prices ranging from $ 30,000 to $ 200,000. Yet in California, where residents have been urged to conserve water because one of the worst droughts in recent history depleted reservoirs, some homeowners are buying them to meet their water needs.
Don Johnson, from Benicia, Calif., Said he bought the smaller machine, which looks like a massive air conditioning unit, in the hopes that it would generate enough water to maintain his garden. But he has found that it produces more than enough for his garden and his home.
“This machine will produce water for a lot less than what you can buy bottled water from Costco, and I think with time and the price of fresh water through our utilities, I think this is going to be more than worth the money, “he said.
Besides the high price, the unit also requires a significant amount of energy to operate. But Johnson said the solar panels on his roof produce enough power to run the machine without additional energy costs.
Experts like the University of California, Davis hydrology researcher Helen Dahlke, said the technology made sense for individual homeowners, especially in rural areas. But she said it’s not a practical solution for California’s larger water problems.
Dahlke said the focus should be on tackling global warming to avoid future droughts.
“We really need to curb global warming to really make a difference again,” she said.