Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘clean water

If billboards were that useful: Clean water dripping from them in Peru

Lima, capital of Peru, at the edge of the Atacama Desert, is one of the driest places on earth:  It receives almost no rainfall.
About 700,000 people have no access to clean water for drinking or bathing.
Another 600,000 of the city’s 7.5 million residents rely on cisterns for their water, which must be filled by pumps or by hand and cleaned regularly.
April 25, 2013

Lima’s Pacific Coast location experiences humidity of more than 90% on summer days, from December to February.

So engineers from Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) have devised a way to turn that humid air into usable water.

Last December, they erected a billboard in the Bujama District of Lima that by early March had produced 9450 liters (about 2500 gallons) of water.

The idea came about because UTEC was facing a slump in enrollment as the new semester approached; the engineering department wanted a way to attract more engineering students to the university. They went to Peruvian ad agency Mayo Publicidad, and the partnership of engineers and marketers crafted an advertisement that would provide a very visible demonstration of the university’s engineering projects.

And the water-collecting billboard was born.

Electricity from the city’s power lines runs the 5 condensers inside the billboard. Like the condenser in your home air conditioner, the ones in the UTEC billboard are cooler than the air outside.

When air contacts the cooled surfaces of the condensers, the air also cools, and the water vapor in the air condenses into liquid water.

After reverse-osmosis purification, the water flows down into a 20-liter storage tank at the base of the billboard. The billboard generates about 96 liters of water each day, and a simple faucet gives local residents access to the water. UTEC has not yet announced whether the water will be available for free, but the billboard reportedly cost only about $1200 to install.

This is not the first attempt to pull clean water out of thin air.

In 2011, French company Eole installed a wind turbine in Abu Dhabi, which the company claims generates more than 1400 liters of water each day.

The WMS1000 is 24 meters (about 78 feet) tall, and its 13-meter rotor turns at up to 100 rpm to run a 30-kilowatt generator. This in turn powers a cooling compressor inside the turbine. An intake pulls air into the compressor, and moisture condenses out as the air cools. The water runs down into a purification and storage tank at the base of the turbine.

The turbine needs winds of at least 15 mph to generate enough power for the compressor.

In a desert climate with an average temperate of 95 degrees Fahrenheit and average relative humidity of about 30 percent, the WMS1000 generates about 350 liters of water a day. In humid coastal climates, production increases to about 1200 liters a day. Adding a solar power unit to the turbine could increase output by a few hundred liters more.

Eole designed the turbine for remote communities of fewer than 5000 people, but when it launched the WMS1000 commercially, in 2012, the price tag for a single turbine was about $660,000, well beyond the budget of most small communities in developing countries. (which defeat the purpose?)

Back in Lima, the UTEC engineering department and Mayo Publicidad may have found a way to offset the cost barrier: advertising.

Since the billboard’s installation, UTEC reports a 28% 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.

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.

Dawn of Philo-Ethics; (Jan. 28, 2010)

In the previous post “Twilight for love of knowledge or philosophy”, I explored the theme that philosophy is reaching an end.

Before the 16th century, sciences in Europe were towed by philosophy until Galileo enforced the notion of empirical experimentation and measuring what was not measured. By the time of Descartes, philosophy started to limp and relied on religion as crutch to survive.

Sciences have taken over: they can extend answers to what can be answered.

Sciences are far more efficient than philosophy: faulty answers go unnoticed very effectively.  There are very few practiced scientists, and every man is a philosopher: man can feel what’s wrong with a philosophical system but he refrains to claim knowledge in sciences.

Knowledge is acquired by reasoning on the alternative options formed by perception of man and universe.  When we investigate our opinions and feelings we ultimately want to open up alternatives for the mind to discovering the immutable elements in the relationships. The brain is the field where perceived senses and reasoning procedures or processes interacts: without these interactions there are no perceptions, no actions, and no survival of any species.

It is not necessary to be a practicing scientist to have a scientific critical mind; otherwise, not many people would feel comfortable believing that they are endowed with sensible rational and empirical thinking. When I claim that we need to think philosophically, I mean that we need to combine the ethical component to whatever scientific thinking we undertake. The ethical mind should be the guiding rod to solutions or resolutions of any question.

For example, (it might sound a simple interrogation, but it might carry complex implicit ramifications), suppose that I stirred my Nescafe cup with a spoon.  My Nescafe includes no sugar or milk; just plain hot filtered water and Nescafe.  I got into wondering: should I rinse the spoon in tank supplied water (many germs) or just let the spoon dry when removed from the cup?  The idiosyncratic reaction is to rinse the spoon no matter what, isn’t it?

If I discover that the accumulated potent germs on a dried spoon are far less than the rinsed one then what would be your behavior?  The whole exercise is that we generally extend ready behaviors to our answers; we do not take a deep breath to wonder whether there are implicit reasons in the questions.

Philo-ethics (a new term that I invented) is to work on a set of stringent ethical reasoning that you feel are right.

The purpose is that you feel you have the right to state your ethics because you applied them.  The other advantage is that you won’t feel obligated to impose your ethics on people you like their company: you are in a position to be lenient and to compromise because relationships are more important than strict rules and regulations.

What can be the immutable norms that distinguish right from wrong?

What kinds of realities are eternal?

Cannibalism is not an immutable norm since many tribes still eat man in this century. Anyway, mankind is a carnivore and has been eating his own kind with various aspects of ceremonies such as eating the flesh, heart, liver, and brain boiled, raw, or roasted.  Thus, we need to be more attuned to ethnological studies and observations of the remaining tribes living separate from urban centers. We need to comprehend the behavior, customs, and traditions of primitive tribes since they resembled ours before we opted for urban life style, within mostly a fast developing virtual civilization.

Arne Naess disseminated the eco-philosophy which stated that western paradigm line of thinking is taking the wrong direction for a sustainable earth: Man is not in the upper chain of evolution and he has no right to destroy the other living creatures for his perceived universe. We are in a period of technological development that feed on itself and proliferates pretty much independently of any other sciences; technology feels confident that it does not need validation or control by third parties.

Fact is we need to have better understanding of the effects of our behaviors: mankind is on the same boat and everyone is asked to think that he is the captain of the boat.

Things have changed.  The world can be felt as reduced to a Town Square: instant audio-visual communications around the world is discouraging people to move out and investigate “his universe”.  Mind you that the Renaissance man had to travel on horses for long distances to educate his curiosity and talents.

The new wave of occultism, New Age, alternative lifestyle, mysticism, spiritualism, healing, astrology, clairvoyance, and telepathy are consequences of collecting mass “coincidental” happenings among the billions of people and which are relayed instantly on the Internet.  These coincidences can be explained rationally, especially if we believe in the power of the subconscious for erratic behaviors.

The worst part is that millions are still brandishing old Books or Bibles claiming every word for “truth”; as if we are in the Dark Ages.  Sciences and technologies have done serious empirical attempts to answering most of the dialectical problems in philosophy such as how the universe was started, how knowledge developed and progressed.

What is outside the realm of sciences is in the domain of faith, which should not be confounded with religious philosophical belief systems.

A few facts can now be settled that set the stage for the dawn of philo-ethics or for questions related to the dignity of man for freedom, liberty, opinion, shelter, clean water, health, safety, food, clean air, voting rights, anti-discrimination attitudes relative to color, religion, gender, and country of origin.

The hardship that you subjected yourself to is to keep sensible relationship working: a climate of genuine compassion to human frailty gives incentives to overcome shortcomings that may be surmounted.

Revisited: “How do you value quality of life?” 

            I needed to re-edit this post to expand and clarify my project. French President Sarkozy assembled a committee of Nobel Prize economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to ponder on new indicators for measuring economic performance and social progress. This honorable committee submitted its report on September 13, 2009. The conclusion of the report concerning social progress target the well being of the citizens such as life expectancy, affordable health care, affordable dwelling, worthy education system that focus on individual reflection instead of data and fact memorization since the individual will be called upon to act on his decision, alternatives to organize our life around activities that we love; having satisfying jobs that we value; the possibility of expressing our opinions in public politics and social meetings; enjoying wholesome environment, clean water and purer breathable air; and feeling secure in the neighborhood.  All this social indicators are more valuable to measure how a State has been progressing than relying solely on GNP or how many cars a family own or the number of household equipments.


            In this post I will ask binary questions of (Yes or No) for voting on laws and amendments in three categories of quality of life: personal, community, and State levels.

            On the State level let us consider that the tax breaks exempt people earning less than $10,000 of taxes.  If the State decided to exempt people earning less than $15,000 would you vote for that new tax break knowing that investing money on the previous tax break are targeted to preserving natural reserves, distributing electricity 24 hours per day at the original rate, establishing affordable State health care for all, paying higher rates for teachers for continuing education to encourage individual reflection, increasing rates for nurses with higher quality of services, investing in clean alternative sources of energy, or salvaging beach resorts and better accommodating camping grounds and reclaiming greener locations for the public? How would you vote?

            Thus, each time you vote yes for the new tax breaks would mean that you don’t care that much about the alternative investment in quality of life.  For example, a sample question would be: Would you vote to exempt people earning less than $15,000 in taxes if the tax generated from the current tax break is allocated to preserving natural reserves?

            Let us consider that the government decided to raise taxes on new homes and larger apartments in order to invest on other values of quality of life such reclaiming greener spaces, saving the forest, tending to trekking routes, outdoor camping grounds, constructing public facilities for communities meeting, art galleries, continuing education classes, high quality services establishments for the elderly, and kids intramural sports facilities? How would you vote?  A sample question would be: would you vote for raising taxes on new houses if the generated budget is targeted to reclaiming greener spaces?

            Let us ponder on this line of thought; the government decided to raise taxes on frequent flyers, families with more than two cars, gas guzzling vehicles, and stock traders in order to invest on enforcing laws on gender discrimination, equal employment laws, health and safety in the work place, child abuse, unbiased election laws, equitable laws for minorities; wider range for freedom of expression, and rehabilitating prison systems. How would you vote?        The sample question would be: would you be agreeable to raising taxes on gas guzzling cars if the generated money is earmarked to cover the expense of more law enforcing agents and judges on gender discrimination?


            On the community level, suppose that if people postponed purchasing their first cars for a year and the saved money covers the expenses of inoculating all babies in the community then how would you vote?  Suppose people are asked to postpone buying a new car instead of their older one for a year, then how would you vote?  Suppose of inoculating babies the community decided for pay for free complete blood tests for citizens over 45 of years? Suppose that the community can perform free bypass surgery for the badly needed patients, or free urine dialysis?

            What if you can postpone for a year replacing your washing machine to cover the expenses of investing in playgrounds for kids, or clean water, or new sewer system, or public transport system, or upgrading a hospital, or modernizing schools with updated communication and audio visual systems? How would you vote?

            On the personal level, suppose your family is over three kids and they attend private schools. If you are to send them to public schools, in safe neighborhoods, then would you invest the saved money on a new bathroom, building an extra large room for the kids to assemble and play, arranging the garden as an attractive playground for the kids, taking additional vacations, working part-time so that you may monitor the teaching of your kids after school, subscribing your kids in various clubs and extra-curricular activities, or going out more frequently to movie theaters, musical event, and plays?

            The premises are clear: for the same financial saving you have choices of improving the quality of life of the many in return of lavisher personal comfort or “standard of living”.  These questionnaires permit you to value the kinds of quality of life you believe in; they are easy to administer and the responses can be statistically analyzed using statistical packages specialized for binary responses.  How your community value quality of life? How your nation value quality of life?  What do you think about this research project?


Note: Joseph Stiglitz is not welcomed in the Obama Administration because he harshly criticized the President’s economic adviser Larry Summers in The New York Times; Stiglitz said: “the plan for financial and economic stability is too modest to be effective. The pumping of money in banks is practically free gifts offered to Wall Street: only investors and creditors to these banks are benefiting but not the tax payers.”  Stiglitz is the chief of the line of economists who attack the concept that free markets have the capability to stabilize imbalances efficiently.  His mathematical models have demonstrated that transactions in free markets are biased toward those who are specialized in finance and have the necessary data to fool clients; “globalization has created a fresh pool of investors to exploit their ignorance”.

            As far as I recall Amartya Sen demonstrated that micro-improvement to the economical and social progress of the common people is far more effective than mega projects that displace people and environment to please the grotesque ego of bureaucrats.




April 2023

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