UTEC Water Billboard Scott Burnham Reprogramming the City Repurposed Billboard Urban Infrastructure

A cruel contradiction exists in Lima, Peru. The second driest city in the world after Cairo, Lima sits on Peru’s coastal desert, making clean drinking water scarce. Many residents have to rely on small wells that are “not nice, and often polluted.” Yet the air flowing above the city has a humidity level of 98 percent.

Engineers at Lima’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC), devised a way to literally connect Lima’s dry conditions to the humid air above by using a readily available asset: a billboard. Their creation, the UTEC Water Billboard harvests water from the humid air. The air is processed through a series of reverse osmosis machines installed inside the billboard. The air is passed through a filter, its humidity condense and cleaned of carbon, then stored for local residents to simply turn on a tap at the billboard’s base to receive clean drinking water.

The structure that previously only promoted products few residents in the area could afford now produces an average of 95 liters of clean water per day.

How the Water Billboard works.
How the Water Billboard works.

In its first three months of operation, the billboard produced almost 9500 liters of fresh drinking water, fulfilling the needs of hundreds of local families. The billboard has become an integral part of life in the area. Local farmhands and workers stop by at the beginning of the work day to fill their water bottles, and schools route their sports and running classes past the billboard so students can stop for a drink.

“They could put this in different places,” said one resident as he filled a container for his family. “If possible, in each village, in each town. It is water that gives us life.”

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 be repurposed to convert the air’s humidity into drinking water, and have become a model of a resourceful way to leverage extra abilities from existing infrastructure for new beneficial use in the city.

This project and dozens of others are featured in the Reprogramming the City Book!


  1. Is this available in the US? awesome idea!

  2. yeah it is real cool environmentel project. Perhaps they would also be a way, considering how big of city Lima is, there are plenty roads of course, innercity and highways around it, to incite electricity out of the friction the roads undergo of the high traffic rate in Lima.
    Translating this friction into electricity could co support the distribution matters of the substained water in the above mentioned project. For example for home use or for irrigation of fields.

    This way the water can be distrubuted further into the city by the use the energy which falls free by the velocity of the travelling speedtraffic, it is loseless that way.

    If it is a substainable amount of electricity which can be awoken that way, dont exactly know the true efficiencyrate, perhaps it that rate is high enough it could also serve as a main energie source.

    just an idea.

    Anyway keep up the good work!!

    It has been explained by this website: http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/produce-electricity-while-you-drive/

    The made electricity can be used for indirect distrubution (irrigation) of the water, for home use or for watering crops for example.

  3. does anyone know how much electricity this thing needs? Cool Idea!

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