City: Lima, Peru
Created by: FCB Mayo/UTEC
A cruel contradiction exists in Lima, Peru. It is one of the world’s largest cities located in a desert, second only to Cairo. Its dry environment makes groundwater scarce, yet the air above the city has an atmospheric humidity of 98 percent. With municipal water supplies limited in their reach into outlying communities, many communities have to rely on small wells that, as one person notes, “are often polluted and not nice to drink from”. All this while the air above is heavy with moisture.
Lima’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) has built a reputation for solving real-world problems through clever engineering. For UTEC engineers, the billboard stretching into the sky near some of the water-starved areas of the city had more potential than promoting products. It was an overlooked opportunity to harvest fresh water from the sky.
The UTEC Water Billboard converts the region’s humid air into drinking water for residents of the city. The air is processed through a series of reverse osmosis machines installed inside the billboard, an air filter, condenser, and carbon filter, generating an average of 95 litres of clean water per day, which is kept in tanks at the top and comes out of a faucet at the bottom of the billboard. In its first three months of operation, the billboard produced almost 9500 litres of fresh drinking water. The Water Billboard also became the basis for the water supply which fed the Air Orchard (shown in the Food section).
The UTEC Water Billboard was originally created as a partnership between UTEC and the ad agency Mayo DraftFCB to show how engineering skills can benefit society and inspire local youth to consider a career in engineering. The billboards have been recognized as the first in the world to transform the air’s humidity into drinking water, and have become a model of resourceful ways to repurpose existing infrastructure for new beneficial use in the city.