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Solar-powered source pulls drinking water from the air

Through its SOURCE hydropanels, Zero Mass Water provides communities with drinking water while taking on the world’s growing plastic problem – no infrastructure required.

“With SOURCE, people can own their own source of drinking water without needing electricity or water pipes,” Zero Mass Water (ZMW) Executive Vice President – Global Business Development Rob Bartrop said.

The solar-powered system collects water vapour from the air, which is channeled to an outlet such as a tap, the back of a fridge or a wall-mounted dispenser. A standard household array can produce 300L of drinking water each month, and can be scaled for larger applications such as schools, hotels and commercial buildings.

Users can monitor how much water they have stored, how much water they’re consuming and the quality of the water through a connected app.

After launching in Arizona five years ago, ZMW entered the Australian market at the beginning of 2018. It partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) on a $900,000 pilot program that saw SOURCE systems rolled out across the country.

ZMW has now completed more than 40 projects in Australia, with applications ranging from homes to farms, schools and remote locations like South Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

“We also did quite a large number of projects in country New South Wales, which was really meaningful as water stress was felt profoundly by people in regional and rural areas during the drought,” Bartrop said.

Muswellbrook Shire Council in New South Wales has installed SOURCE at the Muswellbrook Indoor Sports Centre.

Outside of Australia, ZMW did a lot of work across areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the United States and Mexico in 2018, focusing on communities that lacked access to drinking water infrastructure. This included delivering a project at a school in Vanuatu, funded by the Asian Development Bank, as part of the ongoing rebuilding effort after Cyclone Pam devastated the island nation in 2015.

But providing an alternate source of drinking water is just one ZMW’s aims. The company, which is a finalist in the 2019 Australian Water Association NSW Water Awards, is also focused on disrupting Australia’s multimillion-dollar bottled water industry.

“While drinking bottled water can have positive impacts – like reduced consumption of sugary drinks and increased water intake – we also know it’s really bad from a waste standpoint and fails to meet consumer expectation from a cost, resilience or quality perspective,” Bartrop said.

“Our hydropanels offer the highest quality water and with a cost and environmental profile that is much more attractive than bottled water.”

Bartrop estimates the projects ZMW has installed in Australia so far, which produce up to a combined 25,000L of water per month, will offset about 10 million single-use plastic bottles over the hydropanels’ 15-year lifetimes.

The number of bottles offset in Australia is likely to increase, as the company recently partnered with electronics retailer Bing Lee to sell its SOURCE systems in stores.

“There’s a growing demand for sustainable and health and wellness related products,” Bartrop said.

“SOURCE enables people to access high-quality water in a very convenient and sustainable way."