Water is the source of life. It is so fundamental to our lives that we take it for granted. But in some areas of the world, water shortage is an acute and a real problem. Many rural villages in Africa lack the simple water infrastructure to fulfill basic needs.
Visiting small isolated communities up on high plateau in the North East region of Ethiopia, we witnessed this dramatic reality: the lack of potable water. The villagers live in a beautiful natural environment but often without running water, electricity, a toilet or a shower. To survive here, women and children walk everyday for miles towards shallow and unprotected ponds, where the water is often contaminated with human and animal waste, parasites, and diseases. They collect the water using dry carved pumpkins and carry the water back in old plastic containers, which are extremely heavy.
Recent studies show that only 34% of Ethiopia’s population has access to an improved water supply. This implies that approximately 60 million people lack safe water.
To help improve this dramatic situation, we made it our mission to find a solution and help these people with Warka Water (WW): An environmentally, socially and financially sustainable solution to potable water.
Warka Water is an alternative water source to rural population that faces challenges in accessing drinkable water. It is first and foremost an architecture project. WW should not be considered as the solution to all water problems in developing countries but rather as a tool that can provide clean water in selected areas, particularly in mountainous regions where conventional pipelines will never reach and where water is not available from wells. These remote communities, often with limited financial means, struggle to find reliable supplies of clean water for the people, the animals and for agriculture.
WW is designed to be owned and operated by the villagers, a key factor that should help guarantee the success of the project. WW not only provides a fundamental resource for life – water – but also creates a social place for the community, where people can gather under the shade of its canopy for education and public meetings.
The name of the project 'Warka' comes from the Warka Tree, which is a giant wild fig tree native to Ethiopia. It constitutes a very important part of the local culture and ecosystem by providing its fruit and a gathering place for the community.
In rural areas of Ethiopia, infrastructure is scarce, and building a well is neither easy nor affordable. To find water source, you need to drill deep in the ground up to 1,600 ft (500 m). Bringing water to the top requires pumps and electrical equipment, which are both expensive and difficult to maintain.
Our focus is on providing sustainable and affordable water sources through the WW. Built with local bamboo, it is easy to be maintained by villagers themselves, and it can run at very low cost.
Air always contains a certain amount of water, irrespective of local ambient temperatures and humidity conditions. This makes it possible to produce water from air almost anywhere in the world. Locations with high rates of aerosol and humidity are best to install WW.
WW is a vertical structure designed to harvest potable water from the atmosphere (it collects rain, harvests fog and dew), it is estimated to collect up to 26.4 gal (100 L) of drinking water every day.
Below are the key details of Warka Water 3.2.
- Daily water collection: 13 to 26 gallons (50 to 100 L), annual average
- Water tank storage: 264 gallons (1000 L)
- Construction: 4 days, 6 people (by hand, no electrical power machinery required)
- Assembly: 3 hours, 4 people
- Weight: 132 pounds (60 kg)
- Materials: Bamboo, hemp, metal pins, bio-plastic
- Dimensions: Height 33 ft (10 m) – Footprint Ø 13 ft (4,2 m)
- Surface Area: Mesh 262 sq ft (80 sq. m), Collector 141 sq ft (43 sq. m), Canopy 285 sq ft (87 sq. m)
- Cost: ~ $1,000 (production in Ethiopia)
- Maintenance: easy to be maintained, cleaned and repaired.
WW version 3.2 is 33 ft (10 m) in height and 132 pounds (60 kg) in weight, consisting of 5 modules that are very easy to assemble, from top to bottom.The outer frame structure, made with split bamboo elements, is structurally optimized for lightness and strength. The elegant design of the triangulated frame geometry offers both stability and robustness. The joints are made with metal pins and hemp ropes.
A network of ropes provides additional stability. The tension in the diagonal guy-wire, combined with the compressional strength of the bamboo structure, allows the tower to withstand strong winds. 8 fixation points are placed radially at 26 ft (8 m) distance from the WW base and are tightened with 8 polyester ropes, which are very low-stretch and ultraviolet resistant.
Inside the bamboo structure hangs the plastic Mesh that collects droplets of water from the high humidity in the air and the Collector where the dew condensation can happen at night.
A textile canopy around the WW bamboo structure creates a shaded area.
Warka is designed to be easily built and maintained by local villagers without scaffolding and electrical tools.
The materials used are: bamboo, hemp and bio-plastic.
A meteorological station designed specifically for the development of the WW, Warkino enables us to study the water harvesting abilities of different types of materials under various climatic conditions. Warkino helps us to monitor the local environment (humidity, air pressure, temperature, winds, water collection, water quality, material surface temperatures). The Warkino is fundamental to launching a successful pilot and improving the water harvesting materials.
We have built 9 full-scale prototypes of WW to date, testing and improving the concept. Currently, the 10th prototype is being developed (WW version 3.2).
We have faced several challenges so far. The first was creating a tall, lightweight and stable structure out of natural material, using a low-tech and sustainable approach. This process required a number of computer models and simulations, visualized with physical representations. Another challenge was making it easy and economic to construct the tower without using power-tools and scaffolding.
After two weeks of hard work, thanks to the support of the the Italian Development Cooperation, the Italian Cultural Institute in Addis Ababa, and the African Bamboo company, the construction of the First WW Pilot Prototype in Ethiopia has started with the collaboration of the architecture students at the EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building construction and City development). Part of the challenge of this first phase was to find and test the local bamboo and the availability of materials and tools. On 5th of February 2015, the structure was fully assembled for the first time.
Since then, we have come a long way and we are ready to begin constructing our first pilot and test it in the field.
We have drafted a business plan for the next 5 years, where each year is divided into 2 semesters and marked by the letter (S). The semesters with the (✓) symbol delineate what has been achieved thus far, and the semester with the green mark indicates the current phase, which will be achieved with the help of this campaign. We have also planned subsequent phases of work, among which are the launch of 3 field tests and 3 larger pilots, and monitoring test results, before large-scale production.
In 2019, once the project is completed, we plan to start the large-scale production of WW. Moreover, specific training courses will be organized for the inhabitants of the village to construct, use and maintain the WW. We hope to invigorate the local economy through manufacturing activities and give children opportunities to invest their time in more productive activities and education. We believe that WW can be a stepping-stone that empowers communities to build greater independence.
We are raising funds to support and complete our first field test in Ethiopia with Warka Water 3.2. Without completing this phase of work, the project will fall short of launching pilots and scaling to other regions. The diagram below illustrates the distribution of budget required for this phase of WW development. For example, to construct the first pilot test prototype in Ethiopia, we need to acquire materials, to employ people to help us make the structure, cover the travel expenses, etc.
Help us to make WW happen and empower the water poor communities with the ability to produce clean water. Your contribution – from supporting this project, spreading the word, to reaching out with new collaboration ideas – can make a difference in remote villages in Ethiopia. We are grateful for all your support and encouragement.
Behind WW is a small international team with a large vision.
WW has received widespread interest from many international organizations and has been featured on several magazines and blogs.
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For further information, or to receive the detailed list of the publications, the press kit or an interview with a spokesperson, please write a request to email@example.com
Risks and challenges
Since we embarked on this journey 3 years ago, we have acquired a wide range of experience by constructing and testing several WW prototypes and experimenting with various materials and construction techniques. We have defined an efficient design that minimizes the need for tools and materials while maximizing water collection, robustness and maintaining elegance.
During the project development, we have been facing several challenges. For example, one of the most difficult obstacles so far has been to make a tall and a lightweight structure that is easy to mount and is capable of withstanding various weather conditions. The wind transports water particles in the air through the mesh, giving WW the chance to harvest them. But when the wind is too strong, it can challenge the stability of the structure. For this, we have already conducted several tests and improved the design of the tower. The latest WW version is tested to stand against winds that reach the speed of 40 mph (65 km/h).
We have worked extremely hard to get to where we are today, developing and refining the initial concept, and so far have been able to meet the project timeline. A lot of work has already been done, but we are aware that there will be more hurdles to overcome. The next phase of work (the S6), the construction of the first pilot prototype in Ethiopia, is extremely important, and we’ll need to focus all of our energies to address specific challenges that come with constructing WW in a new context – a rural area in the Ethiopian highlands. To adapt the WW design to any changes in the local situation, we must be ready to find all the right materials and tools on site. For example, if local wind conditions pose a danger to WW's stability, we will develop a strategy to avoid any damages. Mesh can be designed to be easily lowered or raised depending on the wind conditions.
Another challenge will be to teach and train the local community on how to build and maintain WW. We already have local representatives that can support and bridge the communication and cultural gap.
We are confident that we can make WW happen. Please join and support our Campaign.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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