In mountainous regions of northern Ethiopia, rainfall is scarce and water hard to find, store and carry back to villages dependent on livestock and agriculture. Architecture and Vision, an international architecture and product design studio of Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler, found a better way to provide clean water. The WarkaWater, a nine-meter bamboo tower that looks uncannily like a wine bottle, uses cheap, lightweight plastic mesh net to harvest drinkable water from the air. The entire structure can be assembled, lifted and fixed to the ground by four to six people with limited tools—and can collect 10 to 20 liters of water per square meter of mesh each day.
Raschel knit mesh, which can be made of polyester or nylon (similar to those used for vegetable bags), hangs inside a basket-like bamboo framework and collects water from early-morning fog. The thin, lightweight materials “cool down rapidly by radiation cooling overnight and reach the condensation point in the early morning,” says Vogler.
The project goal is knowledge transfer, giving villagers the skills to build water infrastructure using local resources. The first prototypes were built in May and June 2012, and the third was on display at the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice in August. In Ethiopian culture, the native warka tree is used for traditional public gatherings, and Vogler wants the WarkaWater structures used in the same way. “Of prime importance to us was to build a structure that makes the location where people collect their daily water a social place,” he said.