Billboard Advertises Engineering School, Manufactures Potable Water

It’s a remarkable thing when ad agencies manage to help people in the course of advertising. The University of Technology and Engineering Peru (UTEC) was looking for ways to increase enrollment. They went to the Peruvian offices of agency DraftFCB and came away with the idea to install a billboard that converts Lima’s water-saturated coastal desert air into potable water.

Perhaps the only downside is that it requires electricity, and not just for those cool neon water drops. There are five generators that capture the humidity and use reverse osmosis to purify the water. Each of these units has a tank that holds 20L. From there, the clean water is aggregated in a main tank and can be collected from a faucet at the base of the billboard. In just three months, the billboard produced over 9,000L (2500 gallons) of potable water for people who would otherwise draw polluted water from wells.

We love to see hacks that help. Use your powers for good, like re-purposing humid air and pollution. Make the jump to see a short video and an artist’s conception of the billboard’s innards.

[Thanks Mike]

[Image source: TIME]


  1. gajpo says:

    Drinking water filtered by reverse osmosis is just as bad as drinking a distilled water.

    • SavannahLion says:

      Distilled water is worse than dirty well water? I’m mystified as to the logic of that. Sure, it’s flavorless and whatever but given only those two choices I’ll happily take the cleaner water.

    • Hal H says:

      Really? How so? Water is water. Sure a lot of things have been filtered out but what is bad about that? No fight here just really curious how this works

      • Dodo says:

        Depends how well it is filtered. If you drink pure H20 without any minerals/salts osmosis will take place in your body causing cells to absorb excess water. Only dangerous if you drink a lot though.

        • SavannahLion says:

          I thought the reverse was true, pure H2O leeched minerals and salts out. In any case excess water of any kind will kill you, distilled or not. Google “Hold your wee for a Wii contest” for one such instance.

          • SavannahLion says:

            Note: I’m not looking for a fight either. I want to know the facts myself.

          • Dodo says:

            You are correct, sorry.

          • danieljlouw says:

            Drinking salt water will actually dehydrate you… So drinking pure water will then demineralize you? Won’t your kidneys just reabsorb everything again? It’s not as if they’re going to pass minerals into the urine?

            Anyway, distilled water and reverse osmosis water are way different. If you ever tasted distilled water, it tastes like shit. Reverse osmosis water actually has a good taste to it. So maybe the reverse osmosis process does not strip out all the goodies in the water?

          • Z00111111 says:

            That only really seems to work if you hold it in. I regularly drink 5-6 litres of water a day and am yet to die of water intoxication.

        • Eric M. says:

          RO water will not do anything to your body, neither will distilled water. The whole idea that distilled/RO water has qualities different than regular water came from a marketing strategy of RO companies to sell you expensive systems for “detox” reasons.

          RO/Distilled water is the same as rain water (natural distillation) that is a primary source of water for much of the world’s population.

          Also consider this, the Navy (and all other large ships like cruise ships) use reverse osmosis to desalinate seawater (as do shore based desalination plants) and they don’t add mineral packets to the water, and sailors are at sea for how many months at a time?

          It takes something like 2000 gallons of water to equal the mineral content in an ounce of broccoli if I’m remembering the study I read correctly. You’re really not getting any minerals from water.

  2. macona says:

    Or they could have just reverse osmosis filtered the well water and save a lot of energy and provide a lot more water.

  3. Mister X says:

    Nearly 30 years ago I considered purchasing land near Mt. Shasta, CA, where everyone trucked in water because the water table was over 600 feet deep, and through bit dulling basalt, and the annual rainfall was in the mid single digits, but it had some snow in winter, and plenty of fog.

    So taking a tip from peoples in Chile, Nepal, Peru, and elsewhere, I was going to install a series of tall poles and attach a fairly dense net/fabric between them, which would then collect the moisture from the fog and convey it into a trough under the net, which would then be piped via gravity to an underground cistern.

    Since the water is collected from the fog, it’s already pure, so no pre-filtration is necessary, and all that without electricity.

  4. XOIIO says:

    Well, rig some of these up with some solar arrays to help cut the cost of power, or better yet (if possible) link a wind turbine up to it (both charging batteries of course) and it would be pretty good in areas without power and clean water, as long as it’s windy enough.

  5. David shaw says:

    Why use power. Passive may be slower, but low tech has less to go wrong

  6. Alexandre Castro says:

    This project is sooo old

  7. Daniel says:

    The article provides no data on the required energy, how high would the billboard have to be to enable water harvesting using only the potential energy of the harvested water? Scaled up, this could provide free water and energy to hilly areas with a humid climate.

  8. Sylph says:

    It’s like a windtrap from Dune!

  9. Jamal Brown says:

    Completely unecessary to use reverse osmosis. An activated carbon filter would have been enough.

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