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airwatergroup via Twitter

Cape Town bottling plant takes on dams crisis by making water from air

With just months left until Cape Town authorities say the city will run out of water, the city’s first bottling plant to make “water from air” is now up and running.

Cape Air Water CEO Brendan Williamson said the company, with its unit based at a warehouse in Killarney Gardens, began operating two weeks ago and has already sold a “good few cases”. The machine, supplied by Durban company Airwater, produces water from condensation in the air.

The Airwater machine can presently produce 700 to 800 litres a day

Williamson said the machine can presently produce between 700 and 800 litres a day. He expects to supply mainly hotels and restaurants in the city.

His bottled water is already being sold for R7.99 a 500ml bottle by Spar, which he says is about R1 more than spring-bottled water. While he admits that it’s “not cheap water”, he argues that the taste of his water is “unbelieveable”.

The units retail for between R785 000 and R1.5-million and are produced in South Africa. He estimates that it will take about 13 months to pay off the initial cost of the machine as well as the warehouse and cooling-facility that the unit is housed in.

The machines rely on electricity (which in South Africa is produced mainly by water intensive coal-fired power stations) to produce the water. However, Williamson argues that even ordinary piped water relies on electricity to drive the distribution pumps.

Read more: Is Durban man’s Airwater solution to Cape Town’s drought really that water-tight?

On request of clients, he plans to bottle some of the water in glass bottles, which he says will make it a more sustainable option to the recycled plastic bottles the company uses currently. “I’m all about the green. I want to help the community,” he adds.

Commenting on the new plant, Airwater CEO Ray de Vries says he has received alot of interest from the rest of Africa as well as from the Middle East for the units, but that with demand so high the company will only be able to deliver the next units by April.

In addition to the unit in operation in Cape Town, two machines are in use in Thailand and four in the north of KwaZulu-Natal. A further two are en route to Australia at present, he added.

He said so far about 240 of the company’s smaller imported “water-cooler” sized units have been sold to Cape Town clients — about 90% of which are home users. The company has dispatched two further shipments of 240 units each to the city.

Most of his sale, he says, have been generated by the large amount of media publicity the machines have attracted, he says.

Featured image: Cape Air Water CEO Brendan Williamson from airwatergroup via Twitter

  • jaco de la rey

    Would harvesting humidity not exacerbate the original problem?
    Removing the water from the air would result in less moisture able to condense on little dust particles to create droplet that cause precipitation? Is this a holistic solution or a cool fad that sounds impressive but is actually moronic and short sighted. Any enlightenment welcome.

  • Brencis

    To date almost all the commentary on the Cape Town water crisis has been
    technicist in nature. We should be learning lessons on how the
    residents are likely to behave from a city like Sao Paulo, who has
    recently experienced water shortages. We may have the naive notion that
    Capetonians will all pull together – sort of how we are doing at present
    – but once the We could then be “socializing” the Cape Town residents
    for the coming outage. “Threatening” the army is not the finest
    solution. We must certainly start to think about and then address the
    socioeconomic consequences of running out of water, in fact even of
    nearly running out of water.
    – Agriculture in the W Cape has already started to feel the pain. Farmers will harvest from 20% to 80% less than the normal annual production. The tomato puree factory in Lutzville will not open this year. 50 000 jobs are on the line.
    – People trying to steal, poison or destroy water, from others’ swimming
    pools, JoJo tanks and boreholes as envy, stress and need for water rises
    in intensity.
    – Declining seasonal employment in agriculture and
    tourism leading to greater poverty for those already living on the
    economic margins and the consequent potential social unrest.
    – Neighbour turning on neighbour as they either see someone “wasting” water or fight over declining water availability.
    – Body corporates disintegrating over how to manage water outages in the
    extensive network of flats on higher ground in the city bowl and UCT
    – People with money exiting Cape Town, either permanently or
    temporarily, having a further knock on effect on the economy. Forget
    about anyone starting a new business that employs semi-skilled workers.
    – Schools having to close because of a lack of sanitation and water. What do those kids do all day?

    We have seen the first evidence of the potential social disorder at the
    Newlands spring, but we certainly haven’t seen how this is going to play
    out and we don’t seem to be seeking out lessons to help us manage the
    pending consequences.

  • Brendan Williamson

    Hi Brencis

    You have hit in right on the button, all points below are extremely valid. If one just looks at our usage this past week and how it has climbed. It has brought our day zero significantly forward and making it very real.

  • Brendan Williamson

    Hi Jaco

    the hydrological cycle takes care of this. All water harvested ends back up into the atmosphere. And yes there is enough water in the atmosphere to harvest.

    The main aim here is every drop we harvest we are limiting the strain on our rivers and dams.