Peruvian researchers have collaborated with an ad agency to create an unusual billboard that generates drinking water from thin air. While the billboard fulfills its traditional role as an advertising tool—in this case for courses at Lima’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC)—it harvests moisture directly from the air, which is then processed through a filtration system. Capable of producing 25 gallons (96 liters) of water a day during summer, the billboard has produced 9450 liters of clean drinking water for a nearby community in the three months since it was first installed. UTEC has not yet announced whether the water will be available for free, but the billboard reportedly cost only about $1200 to install.

The researchers at Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology teamed up with Mayo DraftFCB advertising agency to create the billboard. The panel consists of five machines which convert humidity into water through use of air and carbon filters and a condenser. The water is stored in five tanks located at the top of the structure. The filtered water flows into a pipe at the bottom of the billboard, supplying the neighboring community with clean water.

Objectives and beneficiaries

Remote villages and regions with lack on potable water.

Strong points of the practice

Lima, Peru’s capital city, receives less than one inch of rain each year, forcing some residents to get their water from dirty wells. Despite the lack of rain, the high humidity makes it possible to harvest water directly from the city’s air, providing a sustainable, alternative source of drinkable water.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates, about a billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Lack of clean water is a leading cause of cholera and other diseases that cause diarrhea. Perhaps UTEC's idea can make the situation a little better, one sign at a time.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

Increase the access to potable water resources in order to reduce diseases, infections, and health problems, and increase the quality of life of million people.

Replicability potential of the practice

Since the billboard's installation, UTEC reports a 28 percent increase in enrollment. Results like that may attract the attention of private companies looking for new ways to advertise. The city of Lima and other urban areas, such as Cairo, Egypt, suffer the same lack of potable water as remote villages, and an advertising-funded solution that taps into an existing electrical infrastructure may work well there. UTEC has not yet announced plans to install more billboards in Lima or to make the technology commercially available elsewhere, but the project has started new discussions about how to provide access to clean water.