Natural resources, like water, are in finite supply relative to overall demand. Oceans are plentiful but not conducive to drinking, and freshwater lakes and ponds don’t always exist in high supply to support communities. Consistent access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right. Yet, billions of people worldwide live in areas with minimal water infrastructure.
Desalination presents an interesting hypothetical, as increased investment in it could lead to large-scale operations that simply use the endless supply of ocean water. But, there are logistical problems that would persist for non-coastal cities.
An Arizona-based startup, SOURCE, may just have a solution to the world’s water scarcity issue. The company has developed the Hydropanel, a unique tool that harnesses the properties of the sun to create water out of thin air. And it isn’t a small amount, either—each machine can generate as many as 400,000 gallons of water each year.
SOURCE’s Hydropanel, already in use in more than 50 countries worldwide, functions through a four-step process. First, it collects water vapor from droplets in the air through a hygroscopic gel. The gel interacts with the sun’s heat, activating a property that lets it release the water into a container. The water is then “mineralized” with the preferred levels of calcium and magnesium for human use. Finally, the water is monitored via sensors on the device and optimized for quality.
The device generates anywhere from three to five drinkable gallons per day and has its fair share of happy customers, such as Robert Downey Jr., who uses one at his home in Malibu. Further north at the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, OR, the Hydropanel has been an essential tool for the native communities. Even a church in Florence, SC, adopted the product.
A single panel costs $2,000.
SOURCE founder Cody Friesen had no idea that his potentially world-changing creation would come from an afternoon hike. The Arizona native says he drew inspiration for the Hydropanel concept years ago when walking the trails of the state’s Sonoran Desert. There, he saw a harsh and unforgiving arid environment where Native American ancestors built irrigation systems that sustain vegetation even today.
To Friesen, that stark contrast showed how technology could turn places once inhabitable into flourishing communities. “If we could do for water what solar does for electricity, we could fundamentally shift the axis of the planet and improve the human condition with respect to water,” he said.